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How do underwater landscapes shape the deep-ocean ecosystem?

Oceanographers routinely study the ocean floor on spatial scales from tiny sediment grains to large ocean basins. Ironically, the intermediate spatial scales most familiar to us (kilometres) have remained virtually unstudied. On the kilometre scale, our deep open-ocean floor comprises a complex realm of abyssal hills, trenches and seamounts, and these features are expected to have an important impact on physical, chemical and biological processes in the deep ocean. It is thought, for example, that carbon burial (an important component of global carbon cycling and climate change) is affected by features of this scale.

SAMS researchers, with major funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), are about to commence research on the oceanography of kilometre-scale submarine landscapes. The TopoDeep project will assess the impact of structures like seamounts and trenches on organic-carbon dynamics, related biogeochemical processes and functional faunal diversity in the deep ocean.

contact Robert Turnewitsch for more details.

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