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ORFOIS - Origin and fate of biogenic particle fluxes in the ocean and their interaction with the atmospheric CO2 concentration as well as the marine sediment

Summary information

Funding:FP5 - Research project
Total cost:2852439
Ec contribution:2122146
Start date:2001-11-30
End date:2004-11-30
Duration:36 months
Coordinator:Christoph Heinze (
Organisation:National Environmental Research Institute – Denmark
Keywords:Carbon cycle; silicon cycle; CO2 uptake; Kyoto Protocol; marine biogeochemistry; marine tracer database; general circulation models; water column models; Marine sediment models
Project name:ORFOIS - Origin and fate of biogenic particle fluxes in the ocean and their interaction with the atmospheric CO2 concentration as well as the marine sediment
Project summary:Problems to be solved
The simulation of thoroughly backed up surface ocean pCO2 distributions will narrow the uncertainties of carbon redistribution estimates within the earth system. This knowledge has direct economic consequences because it enables early political measures to react on and prevent undesired climate change evolutions. This knowledge enables a well planned procedure for fulfilling the Kyoto Protocol obligations of member states. Early planning on the basis of solid research results within this context has been shown to be of extreme economic value. The calculation of the fate of particles will be the foundation for valid estimates of removal and storage of hazardous substances within the ocean (coming from land based sources through river runoff and atmospheric transport as well as from direct marine disposal). The consideration of near shore and shelf systems within a global BOGCM (biogeochemical ocean general circulation model) will provide a first global estimate of shelf/open ocean interaction and related water exchange time scales on a mechanistic basis. The particle flux and sediment “community models” will provide a basis for future operational biogeochemical forecasting of environmental key variables. Thus these models will help to prevent marine areas around EU member states from environmental damage and foster sustainable use of these oceanic areas for fisheries.

Scientific objectives and approach
The main scientific objectives of project ORFOIS are to:
• identify and quantify globally the mechanisms underlying the transformation of biogenic particles to dissolved substances within the ocean water column in order to predict correctly surface ocean carbon dioxide sources and sinks;
• develop a refined particle flux model for operational use in ocean general circulation models which realistically describes particle dynamics in the water column, deposition of material to the sediment, and the interaction with the carbon dioxide partial pressure pCO2;
• provide a global closed carbon and nutrient budget for modern (preindustrial) conditions including the water column sediment interaction;
• estimate the changes in CO 2 sea surface source sink patterns and vertical redistributions of carbon as well as nutrients for future global climate change, as well as carbon sequestration scenarios including the associated potential economic impacts.

The project's main technological objectives are to:
• establish publically available community models for particle flux dynamics in the water column and early sediment diagenesis which are suited for use in general circulation ocean climate models;
• establish databases for marine carbon and nutrient cycling which will be easily publically available.

The methodology to achieve these goals is based on a combination of a comprehensive observational database on marine carbon cycling to be collated with two BOGCMs.
Project outputs:Scientific achievements
Comprehensive predictive models systems, i.e. those who can react to changes in external or internal forcing, for marine biogeochemical cycling (carbon, oxygen, nutrients) were developed including particle dynamics (disaggregation and coagulation): A 1 –D modelling framework was provided which allows quick tests of parameterizations two 3 –D fully fledged coupled biogeochemical-physical ocean general circulation models.
A comprehensive web accessible database for ocean biogeochemical cycling was established with special emphasis on carbon (including pCO2 data) oxygen, nutrients, and particle fluxes. Process parameterizations for particle fluxes in the water column as well as sedimentary processes (early diagenesis, sediment top layer, reverse weathering) were developed on the basis of observations and modelling. A first step parameterization of river run off in BOGCM’s was provided. A socio-economic evaluation clarified the option for inclusion of coastal zones into CO2 emission trade.

Results from global change scenarios: Inclusion of particle dynamics in BOGCM’s indicates that the buffer capacity of the ocean for anthropogenic CO2 may be lower than expected from models which do not include particle dynamics. Thus the process added to the models here is important for reliable prediction of future atmospheric greenhouse gases concentrations and the respective radiative warming.

Results from iron fertilization: Iron fertilisation as a mitigation option for climate change is not efficient and thus should not be carried out.

Results from glacial ocean: The effect of iron fertilization and dust input however can have contributed significantly to the glacial atmospheric pCO2 drawdown as observed from ice core measurements.

Results from socio-economic evaluation: Inclusion of ocean zones around countries into CO2 emission trade can potentially be exploited by a few nations only without doing significant harm to the global community.

Socio-economic relevance and policy implications
Precise knowledge on particle dynamics in the ocean provides the basis for more appropriate prognostic models for oceanic CO2 uptake from the atmosphere, which can now in fact be optimized also with respect to sediment trap data. As these latter data on the biological fluxes have potentially large systematic errors the model framework in conjunction with a large data set based on dissolved tracers (not sediment trap data) will help to narrow these uncertainties. The socio-economic evaluation showed that inclusion of oceanic areas into emission trade considerations may be tried by a few nations, but that this consideration would have no large global impact (neither on economics or climate).

The model framework including a process related steering of marine particle fluxes for organic carbon, calcium carbonate and biogenic silica is a unique tool in the world of biogeochemical modelling. The dedicated observational database is one of the most comprehensive dedicated databases existing so far.