Scientists have proposed that natural oceans are possible as CO2 levels drop, and that this could reduce the need for more active transport of CO2 from the atmosphere.
They say the natural ocean could be the basis for a ‘natural ecosystem’ that could be able to absorb CO3 from the environment and store it for later use.
However, they admit that it will take more research before it is practical to test their concept.
“We have not yet identified the specific mechanisms of oceanic biochemistry that will facilitate the uptake of CO3 by natural organisms, and there is a lack of data to inform us on the feasibility of using such mechanisms,” the researchers said.
The research was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The work was carried out by a team of researchers led by professor Dr M. N. Chaudhry of the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the University of Southern California and the University in Oslo.
“In the near future, it is important to establish if oceanic CO2 uptake can be enhanced by bioturbation and how, how quickly, and how effectively,” said lead author Dr. Eileen Dolan.
The study used a combination of models, experimental data and experimental models to simulate the uptake and storage of CO 3 by a variety of organisms, including marine organisms, in the ocean.
The models were run on a small sample of organisms from around the world to show how the uptake rates changed depending on the type of organisms.
The researchers tested their simulations using the oceanic microbial community, which is a group of living organisms that includes the plankton, phytoplankton, corals, algae and algae-eating animals, and is made up of about half the organisms in the world’s oceans.
They found that the uptake rate of CO 2 from the ocean to the atmosphere was approximately twice that of terrestrial biota.
“These results are a major step forward towards the development of a more natural and sustainable oceanic system,” said Dr. Nabil K. Al-Hakim, a professor of biology and oceanography at the University at Buffalo, who was not involved in the research.
“The new model is a key step towards identifying and exploiting the potential of the ocean’s biological systems to improve climate mitigation and adaptation strategies,” said co-author Dr. Mark J. S. Smith, a marine biologist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.
“By incorporating natural biota into models of ocean CO2 transport, we hope to be able not only to assess the effects of ocean acidification on the ocean, but also to determine whether the ocean itself is capable of absorbing CO2 at the same rate that terrestrial systems are.”
The researchers say that the models that they developed can also be used to predict the behavior of other biological systems such as the sea ice, coral reefs, and the ocean circulation.
“To date, this study has shown that CO2-sensing and ocean biotransport can both work in tandem,” said study co-lead author Professor Stephen C. Jones, an oceanographer at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
“This is a major advance in understanding the mechanisms of COII uptake by natural ecosystems and is an important step towards better understanding oceanic transport of carbon dioxide.”
The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Norwegian Research Council.
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