May 16, 2021

The ULPGC leads one of the 50 most consulted studies in ‘Nature’


The Iocag researcher, Santiago Hernández León.

The Iocag researcher, Santiago Hernández León.

A research article of which the professor of Zoology of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Santiago Hernandez Leon, of the Institute of Oceanography and Global Change (Iocag) of the ULPGC, is recognized among the 50 most consulted and downloaded articles of Nature Communications, the open platform of the prestigious research journal.

Nature Communications collects these 50 most consulted articles in 5 categories: Sars-Cov2; Life and Biological Sciences, Chemical and Materials Sciences; Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences; and Physics.

The featured article is entitled ‘Large deep-sea zooplankton biomass mirrors primary production in the global ocean’ and is signed by the scientists S. Hernández-León , R. Koppelmann, E. Fraile-Nuez, A. Bode, C. Mompeán, X. Irigoien, MP Olivar, F: Echevarría, ML Fernández de Puelles, JI González Gordillo, A. Cózar, JL Acuñas, S. Agustí and CM Duarte, from the ULPGC, the University of Hamburg (Germany), the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, the Basque Foundation for Science, the Institute of Marine Sciences of the CSIC, the University of Cádiz, the University of Oviedo and the Centro de Saudi Arabia Red Sea Investigation.

This article was published on November 27, 2020 and located within the Environmental sciences. In this work they refer to organic carbon transport produced by photosynthesis to the meso- and bathypelagic zones. The organisms that live in both zones are sustained by a passive flow of particles and carbon is transported to the deep sea through vertical migrations of zooplankton. The work collects positive relationships at a global level between the zooplankton biomass in the epi-, meso- and bathypelagic layers and the average net primary production (NPP), based on a global evaluation of the available deep-sea zooplankton biomass data. and large-scale estimates of the average NPP. The data obtained imply that an increase in NNP leads to a greater transfer of organic carbon to the depths of the ocean.

Malaspina Expedition

The organic carbon produced by photosynthesis in the illuminated area of ​​the ocean that is not consumed, sediments to the so-called mesopelagic zone (between 200 and 1000 meters deep) where it remains for decades, while the carbon that sediments in the deep ocean , below 1000 meters of depth, it will remain kidnapped for hundreds of years. Oil will already have been consumed or banished from our economy. The transport mechanism is the so-called biological pump that transports organic carbon.

In addition to the carbon that sediments passively, by gravity, the vertical migrations of animals that feed at night in shallower layers and take refuge in deeper layers during the day, mainly small crustaceans, fish and cephalopods, transport ingested carbon in the first meters from the ocean to the deep zone, promoting the so-called active flow. Although we know the vaccine to avoid climate change (renewable), these flows represent an “anti-viral” characteristic of the biosphere to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

The Malaspina Circumnavigation Expedition set out to quantify for the first time on a global scale zooplankton biomass from the surface to 3000-4000 m to estimate active carbon flux, supplementing these data with the scarce data available in the literature. The work recently led by Santiago Hernández-León, Professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the journal Nature Communications shows that primary production in the upper illuminated layer determines the biomass of zooplankton in the surface layers, meso- (200- 1000 m) and bathypelagic (1000-4000 m) from the ocean, both with estimates derived from nets and using acoustic methods at 146 oceanographic stations around the tropical and subtropical ocean. “The effort paid off as we observed for the first time a high density of organisms under the productive zones of all oceans reaching 4,000 m depth. It was exciting!” Hernandez-León states.

These results imply that increased primary productivity leads to higher biomass and therefore the transfer of organic carbon to the bathypelagic zone, promoting carbon sequestration for hundreds of years in the ocean. Animals that feed in the upper productive layers of the oceans at night migrate to deeper layers during the day, transferring energy and organic matter to meso and bathypelagic populations. This process was hypothesized more than 60 years ago by the great Russian marine biologist Mikhail E. Vinogradov, who called this the “migration ladder“From the ocean. However, the lack of data on deep-sea pelagic animals prevented testing this hypothesis until the publication of our work, half a century later.

The discovery of the main role of this migrant fauna in sequestering atmospheric carbon will lead to a reconsideration of the role of marine fauna in carbon sequestration and, therefore, the mitigation of climate change. Our results suggest that there are options to mitigate climate change by facilitating the sequestration of oceanic carbon by marine fauna.

Nine million readers

Nature, the leading international science journal published since 1869, has several divisions, including Nature Communications, as an open access scientific journal. Communications magazine, a group of high-quality, selective and open access multidisciplinary journals, published its first articles in 2018. Every month, nine million people read news, analysis and commentary on nature.com.

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