Ocean biogeochemical cycles

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Ocean biogeochemical cycles

Change in surface ocean pH in response to ocean acidification.

Biogeochemistry is the study of the processes and cycles that transfer elements and energy around the Earth's environment. Part of the interest of these JModels (the first four) is that they aid examination and understanding of the workings of the ocean's biogeochemical cycles. Rather than just words and pictures, there is the opportunity here to learn through manipulating and playing around with the models. Many people find this an easier way of understanding how these dynamical systems work.

The JModels can be used to understand aspects of ocean biogeochemistry, such as:

  1. Control of primary production: primary production refers to the numbers of new algae that grow every year in the ocean. This sunlight-fuelled primary production is the basis of nearly all food chains in the ocean and powers biogeochemical cycles. At the global scale it is controlled in turn by the availability and supply of nutrients.
  2. Control of nutrient levels: the ocean has relatively low concentrations of all compounds that are heavily used by phytoplankton, when compared to other compounds that are delivered at a similar rate down rivers. Phosphate, nitrate and silicate are all scarce in most surface waters, to the point that they inhibit the growth of some or all of the phytoplankton living there.
  3. Effect of ocean mixing: the models can be used to understand how oceanic nutrient cycles and primary production are affected at the global scale by changes in ocean circulation (mixing).
  4. Ocean acidification: due to invasion of fossil fuel CO2 into the ocean.
  5. Pipes: it has recently been proposed that vertical pipes in the ocean could be used to lift up nutrient-rich deep water which would then fuel CO2 drawdown from the atmosphere. The carbon model can be used to make a preliminary analysis of this proposal.

Further reading

  • J.L. Sarmiento and N. Gruber (2006) Ocean Biogeochemical Dynamics, Princeton University Press.
  • W.S. Broecker and T.-H. Peng (1982) Tracers in the Sea, Eldigio Press. (still worth reading)

External links