The thing is that, what with seas and oceans covering about 70% of our planet’s surface and influencing both climate patterns and weather events, relying on a decades-old map when discussing their hidden geology just didn’t cut it. Now Adriana Dutkiewicz and her colleagues from the University of Sydney have carefully analyzed and categorized 15,000 seafloor sediment samples to reveal that deep ocean basins are much more complex than previously thought.
Researchers in Australia have mapped the Earth’s seafloor in unprecedented detail.
And they have found a special group of phytoplankton-diatoms-that actually produce about 25 percent of the oxygen we breathe in our atmosphere; and scientists have determined that these organisms actually make a bigger impact on the global warming front than their land-borne cousins. When diatoms die, they sink to the ocean floor, locking away the carbon, the release noted.
“This disconnect demonstrates that we understand the carbon source, but not the sink”, says co-author Professor Dietmar Muller from the University of Sydney.
The composition of their shells is used to decipher how our oceans have responded to past climate change. Combined with sea surface observations, the map reveals that diatom accumulations on the seafloor are almost entirely decoupled from diatom blooms in surface waters in the Southern Ocean.
“Now that Australia has a brand-new marine research vessel, the Investigator, the new seafloor data set opens the door to future voyages aimed at better understanding the workings and history of the marine carbon cycle”.
Some of the most significant changes to the seafloor map are in the oceans surrounding Australia. The calcium carbonate-rich sediments produced by corals, certain mollusks and microorganisms are extremely pH sensitive, and could offer clues about past ocean acidity. But this is the most up-to-date digital map, based on 40 years of data. The researchers then used an artificial intelligence technique called “support vector machine” to build the digital map based on their analyses.