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The Deep Ocean Contains Fluorescent Organics Which Lasts between 400 and 600 Years to Degrade
International, 7/17/2015

National and international researchers, led by the University of Granada have discovered that the ocean below 200 meters deep contains fluorescent organic matter that resists degradation between 400 and 600 years, which is a storage of reduced organic carbon.

This work contributes with new data on organic matter in the deep ocean, a mystery to many researchers due to its high chemical complexity, consisting of thousands of substances that persist for hundreds or thousands of years.

The researchers from the University of Granada Teresa S. Catalá and Isabel Reche, lead authors with their colleagues from the Malaspina 2010 expedition have advanced in the knowledge of this organic matter due to its spectrofluorimetric characterization.

The results deepen the knowledge of the so-called "microbial carbon pump", a process consisting of microorganisms of the deep ocean, during mineralization of organic matter, that generate reduced compounds that are persistent and can be stored in depth.

This storage prevents them from being returned to the atmosphere as CO2 and thus mitigates its increase in the atmosphere. Scientists have focused on organic molecules that have the characteristic of absorbing light resubmitting it as fluorescence that represent persistent compounds. They have found that these molecules persist between 400 and 600 years in the deep ocean, below 200 meters depth, where sunlight does not penetrate.

They have conducted a census of fluorescent organic molecules present in 800 samples in 24 different water masses collected in all oceans, explains the UGR researcher Teresa S. Catalá.

The 800 samples collected were analyzed on board, immediately after being taken; so that their properties would not be alter. To this end, scientists used a spectrofluorimeter, which recorded the fluorescence emission of each water sample in response to light of different wavelengths (colors).

The scientists hope their work contribute to further progress in the knowledge of the "microbial carbon pump", a mechanism that could eventually be used in the future to produce more persistent dissolved organic matter, and thus partly counter the effects of increase of CO2 in the atmosphere.



Topic(s):    Resources coastal / marine