The Northwest Atlantic Biological Carbon Pump

The ocean stores an enormous amount of carbon and heat, and in doing so regulates Earth’s climate. This project focuses on an important aspect of the ocean’s carbon storage referred to as the biological carbon pump (BCP). When tiny algae in the ocean grow, they take up CO2. When some of these algae, or feces from small animals that ate them, sink to the deep ocean (e.g., below 1000 m), the carbon they contain is removed from contact with the atmosphere for hundreds to thousands of years. This can be thought of as biological processes pumping carbon into the deep ocean. Without the BCP, carbon dioxide concentrations would be nearly double the amount in the atmosphere today and Earth’s climate would be radically different. In the Northwest Atlantic and Canadian Arctic Gateway, algae accumulate in the spring. This algae growth, together with the sinking of cold, carbon-rich water, moves huge amounts of carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. Currently, we do not have measurements or models to reliably predict how these processes will change as the climate warms.

Project details

Principal Investigator:
Zoe Finkel
Principle Investigator:
Uta Passow
Project Start Date:
Project End Date:
Documentation:
Download project PDF

Research Outcomes

About the research project

About the research

This project will bring together oceanographic researchers, ocean engineers, social scientists, government, industry, and Indigenous partners to:  

  • Improve our ability to monitor and measure changes in algal growth and the strength of the BCP  
  • Improve our understanding of how environmental conditions affect the BCP  
  • Develop high-resolution models to estimate algal growth and the BCP in the past and future  
  • Create governance, human rights law, and policy frameworks to improve decision-making from local to international levels

Principal Investigators

Dr. Zoe Finkel (Dalhousie University)

Dr. Uta Passow (Memorial University)

Research Team

  • Zoe Finkel, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Microbial Macroecology, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University  
  • Erin Bertrand, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Microbial Proteomics, Department of Biology, Dalhousie University,  
  • Carolyn Buchwald, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Ocean Chemistry, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University,  
  • Katja Fennel, Killam Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University,  
  • Andrew Irwin, Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Dalhousie University,  
  • Patricia Johnson-Castle, Director of Policy, Nunatsiavut Government.  
  • Markus Kienast, Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University.  
  • Stephanie Kienast, Associate Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University,
  • Julie LaRoche, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Marine Microbial Genomics and Biogeochemistry, Dalhousie University,
     
  • Eric Oliver, Assistant Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University,  
  • Uta Passow, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Biological Oceanographic Processes, Ocean Sciences, Memorial University of Newfoundland,  
  • Heather Reader, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Chemistry of the Ocean and Atmosphere, Department of Chemistry, Memorial University,  
  • Jinyu Sheng, Professor, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University  
  • Sara Seck, Associate Professor and Associate Dean Research, Schulich School of Law, Marine and Environmental Law Institute, Dalhousie University,  
  • Vincent Sieben, Associate Professor and Sexton Research Chair in Ocean Sensing, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dalhousie University  
  • Rachel Sipler, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Ocean Biogeochemistry, Department of Ocean Sciences, Memorial University,  
  • David VanderZwaag, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Ocean Law and Governance, Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University  
  • Doug Wallace, Professor and Canada Research Chair, Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University  

Partners

  • DalhousieUniversity (Oceanography, Biology, Math & Stats, Schulich School of Law)
  • MemorialUniversity (Ocean Sciences, Chemistry)
  • Universityof Alberta (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
  • AlfredWegener Institute
  • Christian– Albrechts -Universitat zu Kiel
  • GEOMARHelmholtz Centre for Oceans Research
  • Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory
  • MarineInstitute (Ireland)
  • WoodsHole Oceanographic Institution
  • RBRLimited
  • OceanSchool/NFB
  • NunatsiavutGovernment
  • AtlanticPolicy Congress of First Nations Chiefs
  • DartmouthOcean Technologies
  • KrakenRobotic Systems Incorporated