Oct 12 2012

Is Fish Poop Critical To The Ocean?

Professor Deborah Steinberg of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) has dedicated her professional life to investigating crustaceans and their role in the “biological pump,” which is the process by which marine life transports carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and ocean’s surface to the deep sea. This cycle removes the carbon to a depth where it contributes nothing to global warming.

In a new study published in Tuesday’s issue of Scientific Reports, professor Steinberg partnered with Dr. Grace Saba of Rutgers
University and retrained her focus from crustaceans to small forage fish in order to gain an understanding of their role in this carbon removal process.

The research pair collected their data off the coast of southern California on an exploratory expedition aboard the research vessel Point Sur. Building on Steinberg’s knowledge of copepods and other small, drifting marine animals, gleaned from two decades of research, the team wanted to explore whether forage fish like crustaceans played a discernible role in the biological pump through their consumption of photosynthetic surface algae and subsequent release “fecal pellets”.
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