Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE)
Coverage: North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (large region around 22 45 N, 158 W)
The Center for Microbial Oceanography: Research and Education (C-MORE) is a recently established (August 2006; NSF award: EF-0424599) NSF-sponsored Science and Technology Center designed to facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of the diverse assemblages of microorganisms in the sea, ranging from the genetic basis of marine microbial biogeochemistry including the metabolic regulation and environmental controls of gene expression, to the processes that underpin the fluxes of carbon, related bioelements and energy in the marine environment. Stated holistically, C-MORE's primary mission is: Linking Genomes to Biomes.
We believe that the time is right to address several major, long-standing questions in microbial oceanography. Recent advances in the application of molecular techniques have provided an unprecedented view of the structure, diversity and possible function of sea microbes. By combining these and other novel approaches with more well-established techniques in microbiology, oceanography and ecology, it may be possible to develop a meaningful predictive understanding of the ocean with respect to energy transduction, carbon sequestration, bioelement cycling and the probable response of marine ecosystems to global environmental variability and climate change. The strength of C-MORE resides in the synergy created by bringing together experts who traditionally have not worked together and this, in turn, will facilitate the creation and dissemination of new knowledge on the role of marine microbes in global habitability.
The new Center will design and conduct novel research, broker partnerships, increase diversity of human resources, implement education and outreach programs, and utilize comprehensive information about microbial life in the sea. The Center will bring together teams of scientists, educators and community members who otherwise do not have an opportunity to communicate, collaborate or design creative solutions to long-term ecosystem scale problems. The Center's research will be organized around four interconnected themes:
(Theme I) microbial biodiversity,
(Theme II) metabolism and C-N-P-energy flow,
(Theme III) remote and continuous sensing and links to climate variability, and
(Theme IV) ecosystem modeling, simulation and prediction.
Each theme will have a leader to help coordinate the research programs and to facilitate interactions among the other related themes. The education programs will focus on pre-college curriculum enhancements, in service teacher training and formal undergraduate/graduate and post-doctoral programs to prepare the next generation of microbial oceanographers. The Center will establish and maintain creative outreach programs to help diffuse the new knowledge gained into society at large including policymakers. The Center's activities will be dispersed among five partner institutions:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution,
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute,
University of California at Santa Cruz and
Oregon State University
and will be coordinated at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Strategic plan (PDF file)
Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT): Sustaining ocean ecosystem and climate observations in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (HOT)
Coverage: North Pacific Subtropical Gyre; 22 deg 45 min N, 158 deg W
Systematic, long-term observations are essential for evaluating natural variability of Earth’s climate and ecosystems and their responses to anthropogenic disturbances. Since October 1988, the Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT) program has investigated temporal dynamics in biology, physics, and chemistry at Stn. ALOHA (22°45' N, 158°W), a deep ocean field site in the oligotrophic North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG). HOT conducts near monthly ship-based sampling and makes continuous observations from moored instruments to document and study NPSG climate and ecosystem variability over semi-diurnal to decadal time scales. HOT was founded to understand the processes controlling the time-varying fluxes of carbon and associated biogenic elements in the ocean and to document changes in the physical structure of the water column. To achieve these broad objectives, the program has several specific goals:
Quantify time-varying (seasonal to decadal) changes in reservoirs and fluxes of carbon (C) and associated bioelements (nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and silicon).
Identify processes controlling air-sea C exchange, rates of C transformation through the planktonic food web, and fluxes of C into the ocean’s interior.
Develop a climatology of hydrographic and biogeochemical dynamics from which to form a multi-decadal baseline from which to decipher natural and anthropogenic influences on the NPSG ecosystem.
Provide scientific and logistical support to ancillary programs that benefit from the temporal context, interdisciplinary science, and regular access to the open sea afforded by HOT program occupation of Sta. ALOHA, including projects implementing, testing, and validating new methodologies, models, and transformative ocean sampling technologies.
Over the past 24+ years, time-series research at Station ALOHA has provided an unprecedented view of temporal variability in NPSG climate and ecosystem processes. Foremost among HOT accomplishments are an increased understanding of the sensitivity of bioelemental cycling to large scale ocean-climate interactions, improved quantification of reservoirs and time varying fluxes of carbon, identification of the importance of the hydrological cycle and its influence on upper ocean biogeochemistry, and the creation of long-term data sets from which the oceanic response to anthropogenic perturbation of elemental cycles may be gauged.
A defining characteristic of the NPSG is the perennially oligotrophic nature of the upper ocean waters. This biogeochemically reactive layer of the ocean is where air-sea exchange of climate reactive gases occurs, solar radiation fuels rapid biological transformation of nutrient elements, and diverse assemblages of planktonic organisms comprise the majority of living biomass and sustain productivity. The prevailing Ekman convergence and weak seasonality in surface light flux, combined with relatively mild subtropical weather and persistent stratification, result in a nutrient depleted upper ocean habitat. The resulting dearth of bioessential nutrients limits plankton standing stocks and maintains a deep (175 m) euphotic zone. Despite the oligotrophic state of the NPSG, estimates of net organic matter production at Sta. ALOHA are estimated to range ~1.4 and 4.2 mol C m2 yr1. Such respectable rates of productivity have highlighted the need to identify processes supplying growth limiting nutrients to the upper ocean. Over the lifetime of HOT numerous ancillary science projects have leveraged HOT science and infrastructure to examine possible sources of nutrients supporting plankton productivity. Both physical (mixing, upwelling) and biotic (N2 fixation, vertical migration) processes supply nutrients to the upper ocean in this region, and HOT has been instrumental in demonstrating that these processes are sensitive to variability in ocean climate.
Station ALOHA - site selection and infrastructure
Station ALOHA is a deep water (~4800 m) location approximately 100 km north of the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Thus, the region is far enough from land to be free of coastal ocean dynamics and terrestrial inputs, but close enough to a major port (Honolulu) to make relatively short duration (45 m depth), below depths of detection by Earth-orbiting satellites. The emerging data emphasize the value of in situ measurements for validating remote and autonomous detection of plankton biomass and productivity and demonstrate that detection of potential secular-scale changes in productivity against the backdrop of significant interannual and decadal fluctuations demands a sustained sampling effort.
Careful long-term measurements at Stn. ALOHA also highlight a well-resolved, though relatively weak, seasonal climatology in upper ocean primary productivity. Measurements of 14C-primary production document a ~3-fold increase during the summer months (Karl et al., 2012) that coincides with increases in plankton biomass (Landry et al., 2001; Sheridan and Landry, 2004). Moreover, phytoplankton blooms, often large enough to be detected by ocean color satellites, are a recurrent summertime feature of these waters (White et al., 2007; Dore et al., 2008; Fong et al., 2008). Analyses of ~13-years (1992-2004) of particulate C, N, P, and biogenic Si fluxes collected from bottom-moored deep-ocean (2800 m and 4000 m) sediment traps provide clues to processes underlying these seasonal changes. Unlike the gradual summertime increase in sinking particle flux observed in the upper ocean (150 m) traps, the deep sea particle flux record depicts a sharply defined summer maximum that accounts for ~20% of the annual POC flux to the deep sea, and appears driven by rapidly sinking diatom biomass (Karl et al., 2012). Analyses of the 15N isotopic signatures associated with sinking particles at Sta. ALOHA, together with genetic analyses of N2 fixing microorganisms, implicates upper ocean N2 fixation as a major control on the magnitude and efficiency of the biological carbon pump in this ecosystem (Dore et al., 2002; Church et al., 2009; Karl et al., 2012).
Science results from HOT continue to raise new, important questions about linkages between ocean climate and biogeochemistry that remain at the core of contemporary oceanography. Answers have begun to emerge from the existing suite of core program measurements; however, sustained sampling is needed to improve our understanding of contemporary ecosystem behavior and our ability to make informed projections of future changes to this ecosystem. HOT continues to focus on providing answers to some of the questions below:
How sensitive are rates of primary production and organic matter export to short- and long-term climate variability?
What processes regulate nutrient supply to the upper ocean and how sensitive are these processes to climate forcing?
What processes control the magnitude of air-sea carbon exchange and over what time scales do these processes vary?
Is the strength of the NPSG CO2 sink changing in time?
To what extent does advection (including eddies) contribute to the mixed layer salinity budget over annual to decadal time scales and what are the implications for upper ocean biogeochemistry?
How do variations in plankton community structure influence productivity and material export?
What processes trigger the formation and demise of phytoplankton blooms in a persistently stratified ocean ecosystem?
Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB)
The Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) program focuses on the ocean's role as a component of the global Earth system, bringing together research in geochemistry, ocean physics, and ecology that inform on and advance our understanding of ocean biogeochemistry. The overall program goals are to promote, plan, and coordinate collaborative, multidisciplinary research opportunities within the U.S. research community and with international partners. Important OCB-related activities currently include: the Ocean Carbon and Climate Change (OCCC) and the North American Carbon Program (NACP); U.S. contributions to IMBER, SOLAS, CARBOOCEAN; and numerous U.S. single-investigator and medium-size research projects funded by U.S. federal agencies including NASA, NOAA, and NSF.
The scientific mission of OCB is to study the evolving role of the ocean in the global carbon cycle, in the face of environmental variability and change through studies of marine biogeochemical cycles and associated ecosystems.
The overarching OCB science themes include improved understanding and prediction of: 1) oceanic uptake and release of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases and 2) environmental sensitivities of biogeochemical cycles, marine ecosystems, and interactions between the two.
The OCB Research Priorities (updated January 2012) include: ocean acidification; terrestrial/coastal carbon fluxes and exchanges; climate sensitivities of and change in ecosystem structure and associated impacts on biogeochemical cycles; mesopelagic ecological and biogeochemical interactions; benthic-pelagic feedbacks on biogeochemical cycles; ocean carbon uptake and storage; and expanding low-oxygen conditions in the coastal and open oceans.
U.S. Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (U.S. JGOFS)
The United States Joint Global Ocean Flux Study was a national component of international JGOFS and an integral part of global climate change research.
The U.S. launched the Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (JGOFS) in the late 1980s to study the ocean carbon cycle. An ambitious goal was set to understand the controls on the concentrations and fluxes of carbon and associated nutrients in the ocean. A new field of ocean biogeochemistry emerged with an emphasis on quality measurements of carbon system parameters and interdisciplinary field studies of the biological, chemical and physical process which control the ocean carbon cycle. As we studied ocean biogeochemistry, we learned that our simple views of carbon uptake and transport were severely limited, and a new "wave" of ocean science was born. U.S. JGOFS has been supported primarily by the U.S. National Science Foundation in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy and the Office of Naval Research. U.S. JGOFS, ended in 2005 with the conclusion of the Synthesis and Modeling Project (SMP).
Ocean Time-series Sites (Ocean Time-series)
Coverage: Bermuda, Cariaco Basin, Hawaii
Program description text taken from Chapter 1: Introduction from the Global Intercomparability in a Changing Ocean: An International Time-Series Methods Workshop report published following the workshop held November 28-30, 2012 at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. The full report is available from the workshop Web site hosted by US OCB: http://www.whoi.edu/website/TS-workshop/home
Decades of research have demonstrated that the ocean varies across a range of time scales, with anthropogenic forcing contributing an added layer of complexity. In a growing effort to distinguish between natural and human-induced earth system variability, sustained ocean time-series measurements have taken on a renewed importance. Shipboard biogeochemical time-series represent one of the most valuable tools scientists have to characterize and quantify ocean carbon fluxes and biogeochemical processes and their links to changing climate (Karl, 2010; Chavez et al., 2011; Church et al., 2013). They provide the oceanographic community with the long, temporally resolved datasets needed to characterize ocean climate, biogeochemistry, and ecosystem change.
The temporal scale of shifts in marine ecosystem variations in response to climate change are on the order of several decades. The long-term, consistent and comprehensive monitoring programs conducted by time-series sites are essential to understand large-scale atmosphere-ocean interactions that occur on interannual to decadal time scales. Ocean time-series represent one of the most valuable tools scientists have to characterize and quantify ocean carbon fluxes and biogeochemical processes and their links to changing climate.
Launched in the late 1980s, the US JGOFS (Joint Global Ocean Flux Study; http://usjgofs.whoi.edu
) research program initiated two time-series measurement programs at Hawaii and Bermuda (HOT and BATS, respectively) to measure key oceanographic measurements in oligotrophic waters. Begun in 1995 as part of the US JGOFS Synthesis and Modeling Project, the CARIACO Ocean Time-Series (formerly known as the CArbon Retention In A Colored Ocean) Program has studied the relationship between surface primary production, physical forcing variables like the wind, and the settling flux of particulate carbon in the Cariaco Basin.
The objective of these time-series effort is to provide well-sampled seasonal resolution of biogeochemical variability at a limited number of ocean observatories, provide support and background measurements for process-oriented research, as well as test and validate observations for biogeochemical models. Since their creation, the BATS, CARIACO and HOT time-series site data have been available for use by a large community of researchers.
Data from those three US funded, ship-based, time-series sites can be accessed at each site directly or by selecting the site name from the Projects section below.