CArbon Retention In A Colored Ocean Project

Project Description

Understanding the Link between the Ocean Surface and the Sinking Flux of Particulate Carbon in the Cariaco Basin

Over the past ten years, the CARIACO (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. This depression, located on the continental shelf of Venezuela (Map), shows marked seasonal and interannual variation in hydrographic properties and primary production (carbon fixation rates by photosynthesis of planktonic algae).

This peculiar basin is anoxic below ~250 m, due its restricted circulation and high primary production (Muller-Karger et al., 2001). CARIACO observations show annual primary production rates exceed 500 gC/m², of which over 15-20% can be accounted for by events lasting one month or less. Such events are observed in other locations where time series observations are collected, and suggest that prior estimates of regional production based on limited sampling may have been underestimated. The annual primary production rates in the Cariaco Basin are comparable to rates estimated using time series observations for Monterey Bay (460 gC/m² y; Chavez, 1996), and higher than previous rates estimated for Georges Bank, the New York Shelf, and the Oregon Shelf (380, 300, and 190 gC/m² y, respectively; Walsh, 1988).

The Cariaco Basin has long been the center of attention of scientists trying to explain paleoclimate. Due to its high rates of sedimentation (30 to >100 cm/ky; Peterson et al., 2000) and excellent preservation, the varved sediments of the Cariaco Basin offer the opportunity to study high resolution paleoclimate and better understand the role of the tropics in global climate change ( Black et al., 1999; Peterson et al., 2000; Haug et al., 2001; Black et al., 2004; Hughen et al., 2004 ).

Now, the CARIACO program provides a link between the sediment record and processes near the surface of the ocean. Sediment traps maintained by the CARIACO program show that over 5% of autochtonous material reaches 275 m depth, and that nearly 2% reaches 1,400 m. The significance of this flux is that it represents a sink for carbon and that it helps explain the record of ancient climate stored at the bottom of the Cariaco Basin.

Acknowledgements:  This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and Venezuela's Fondo Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (FONACIT). For more information please see this Acknowledgements link.

Lead Principal Investigator

Frank Muller-Karger (Institute for Marine Remote Sensing, College of Marine Science, University of South Florida)


CARIACO is a Collaborative Multi-Institutional Project

Venezuela: Fundación La Salle de Ciencias Naturales, Estacion de Investigaciones Marinas de Margarita, Isla de Margarita,Venezuela; Universidad de Oriente, Institutio Oceanografico de Venezuela (IOV), Cumana, Venezuela; INTECMAR/ Universidad Simon Bolivar Fundación Instituto de Ingeniería Centro de Procesamiento Digital de Imágenes (CPDI)

United States: University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg, FL; University of South Carolina, Department of Geological Sciences, Columbia, SC; State University of New York, Marine Sciences Research Center, Stony Brook, NY

Funding Agencies: Fondo Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación (FONACIT,Venezuela); National Science Foundation, Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) Ocean Sciences(OCE) (NSF, USA); National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA, USA)

Project Data and Results

Final Database:  access to online relational database of final data
CARIACO web site:  online archive of original project data

Related Info

funding is provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation