A team of institutions and researchers that includes Dr. David M. Karl, Professor of Oceanography at the University of Hawai'i and Marine Microbiology Initiative Senior Investigator, has discovered a potential source of essential nutrients that allow microscopic algae to grow in nutrient depleted regions of the open ocean. Using high-resolution measurements of nitrate and oxygen concentrations in the water column from 1000 meters to near-surface waters of the North Pacific subtropical gyre, the team discovered that as oxygen concentrations in the upper 100 meters of ocean increased through the process of photosynthesis, nitrate concentrations between 100-250 meters decreased proportionally. The team concluded that the algae in the surface waters might be obtaining nitrate from deep water plumes generated by ocean eddies. Their findings have been highlighted in Nature.
Funding for this research comes in part from a Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation grant to the University of Hawai’i Foundation, to support research in Dr. Karl's laboratory, to improve our understanding of essential biogeochemical cycles and sequestration of atmospheric carbon by the microbially-mediated oceanic biological carbon pump.