Research Topic

We Shed Light: Optical Insights into the Biological Carbon Pump

About this Research Topic

Sinking particles transport organic carbon to the deep sea, where they form the base of life and store large amounts of atmospheric carbon. The magnitude of particle export and the rate at which particles are consumed determine carbon sequestration in the oceans, and directly influence atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global climate. Traditionally, sinking particles have been collected using sediment traps. However, the limited spatial and temporal coverage of sediment traps, and other limitations involved with the retrieval of in situ samples, have led to new technologies that focus on optical measurements to allow the remote collection of large data sets describing both frequencies and types of sinking particles. These can be used from ships or installed on platforms, promising greater spatial and temporal coverage. Yet, whilst technologies to image particles have advanced greatly during the last two decades, techniques to analyze the often immense data sets have not. One short-coming is the translation of optical particle properties (e.g. the image) into particle characteristics such as carbon content and sinking speed. Moreover, different devices often measure different optical properties, leading to difficulties in comparing results.

This Research Topic aims to bring together the work of experts in observation, experimentation, theoretical modelling, and data analyses to highlight the advances and potential of this new emerging research field. We encourage submissions that use optical techniques to investigate the biological carbon pump, improve the process of converting in-situ particle measurements to global export estimates, or generally highlight the power of in situ imaging. Manuscripts could include (but are not limited to):
(1) Observations of organic particles and organic particle concentrations in the ocean
(2) Insights into food web processes of the biological carbon pump from optical devices
(3) Techniques for the conversion of optical observations into particle type, size, concentration, composition or fluxes, including modelling studies and laboratory experiments
(4) Intercalibration efforts between different optical techniques/devices
(5) Advances in automatic image recognition software and particle classification


Keywords: marine snow, particle flux dynamics, ocean carbon cycling, biological pump, in situ imaging


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Sinking particles transport organic carbon to the deep sea, where they form the base of life and store large amounts of atmospheric carbon. The magnitude of particle export and the rate at which particles are consumed determine carbon sequestration in the oceans, and directly influence atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global climate. Traditionally, sinking particles have been collected using sediment traps. However, the limited spatial and temporal coverage of sediment traps, and other limitations involved with the retrieval of in situ samples, have led to new technologies that focus on optical measurements to allow the remote collection of large data sets describing both frequencies and types of sinking particles. These can be used from ships or installed on platforms, promising greater spatial and temporal coverage. Yet, whilst technologies to image particles have advanced greatly during the last two decades, techniques to analyze the often immense data sets have not. One short-coming is the translation of optical particle properties (e.g. the image) into particle characteristics such as carbon content and sinking speed. Moreover, different devices often measure different optical properties, leading to difficulties in comparing results.

This Research Topic aims to bring together the work of experts in observation, experimentation, theoretical modelling, and data analyses to highlight the advances and potential of this new emerging research field. We encourage submissions that use optical techniques to investigate the biological carbon pump, improve the process of converting in-situ particle measurements to global export estimates, or generally highlight the power of in situ imaging. Manuscripts could include (but are not limited to):
(1) Observations of organic particles and organic particle concentrations in the ocean
(2) Insights into food web processes of the biological carbon pump from optical devices
(3) Techniques for the conversion of optical observations into particle type, size, concentration, composition or fluxes, including modelling studies and laboratory experiments
(4) Intercalibration efforts between different optical techniques/devices
(5) Advances in automatic image recognition software and particle classification


Keywords: marine snow, particle flux dynamics, ocean carbon cycling, biological pump, in situ imaging


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

29 March 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

29 March 2019 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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