This fearless robot is the wall-e of the deep sea

Yet exactly how much carbon is trapped can vary from ocean to ocean and from season to season. In general, researchers do not have a good handle on biological and chemical processes. “The rover helps us understand how much carbon can actually penetrate deep ocean sediments,” said Chris Hafard, an MBARI marine biologist who co-authored the new paper. “Our only view is how much carbon can actually be stored in the silt, versus how much is actually consumed, and probably contributes to deep-sea acidification.” (When carbon dioxide dissolves in seawater, it forms carbonic acid.)

Here is a solid example of one of those seabed carbon mysteries. In California, land is warming much faster than the adjacent ocean, a difference that intensifies the monsoon winds. It can rise further – the wind pushes the surface water away, and water from the bottom rushes to fill the void. This will bring in more nutrients that feed the phytoplankton, which blooms in surface water and then dies and becomes sea ice. Between 2015 and 2020, for example, BR-II fluorescence cameras detected a massive increase in the amount of phytoplankton in the seabed of large pulses. At the same time, its sensors detected a decrease in oxygen, which means that seabed germs were engaged in the processing of organic matter.

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That raises some questions for Haffard. “In general, the region is becoming much more irregular in its food supply – this could be the price of food for a few years in a few weeks. So how is it changing the whole ecosystem? “He asked.” The response from the animal community is almost instantaneous. They start taking it right now, there is no big gap. The germs are just starting out and ready to go. “

What does this mean for the carbon cycle? Theoretically, the more organic matter is raining, the more it is moving away from the atmosphere. But at the same time, sea creatures that eat this bonus buffet are also using oxygen and scattering carbon dioxide, which can make deep water acidic. And since the ocean is constantly churning, some of that carbon can bring it back to surface water and into the atmosphere. “We’re seeing more carbon entering the deep sea than could have been predicted otherwise,” said Haffard. “The rover adds dimensions to tell us that most of the carbon is actually eaten once it goes down, not stored in silt.”

Are these extra-large chunks of marine ice now a permanent feature of California deep water, or a distortion? With the help of Benthic Rover, scientists can collect the long-term data needed to start answering. “Although it is important to keep the planet healthy and to combat climate change, the deep sea has been largely underestimated and underestimated,” said Lisa Levin, a seafood researcher at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This works. “An army of such devices can help us better understand biochemical changes – important for improving climate models, ecosystem models, fisheries models and more.” Rovers can also help scientists study the effects of deep-sea mining.

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