GBF-OOI Scoping Workshop

May 23 – 25, 2011
Clark Laboratory Rm #507, Quissett Campus

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

An Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Scoping Workshop on a Biogeochemical Flux Program Aligned with the Ocean Observatories Initiative

Co-Conveners:  Susumu Honjo1, Tim Eglinton1,4, Cynthia Pilskaln3, Heidi Sosik1, Craig Taylor1, Claudia Benitez-Nelson2

1 - Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
2 - Univ. of South Carolina
3 - University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth
4 - ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Scientific Steering Committee: S. Honjo, T. Eglinton, C. Benitez-Nelson, A. Bracher, K. Buesseler, K. Daly, J. Delaney, J. Dunne, S. Dutkiewicz, C. German, D. Iglesias-Rodrieguez, S. Neuer, O. Schofield, H. Sosik, C. Taylor, K. Ulmer

This OCB Scoping Workshop will explore the potential for development of a major, sustained biogeochemical flux program aligned with the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI). The primary focus of this workshop will be to (a) define overarching scientific objectives, (b) establish core measurement strategies/technologies and assess the logistical feasibility of biogeochemical observations, and (c) explore ways to maximize synergy with the OOI in terms of utilization of physical and virtual assets (cyberinfrastructure), to strengthen the overall OOI mission, and enhance the scientific and societal value of this major oceanographic research effort. The outcome of the workshop will be a report that we envision will form the foundation for a community white paper. The latter will provide strong justification for a global biogeochemical flux component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (GBF-OOI), describe its scientific goals, and articulate how such a program could be realized.

Scientific Justification
The Ocean Observatories Initiative, OOI (www.oceanleadership.org/programs-andpartnerships/ ocean-observing/ooi/) and other major international programs utilizing new autonomous ocean observing technologies are poised to revolutionize the way in which we explore the oceans and examine their role in the larger Earth system. Sustained, comprehensive, and in many cases, real-time observations emanating from these programs will provide unprecedented new insights into ocean processes over a range of spatial and temporal scales. A major overarching emphasis of the OOI, which is scheduled to be operative for the next two to three decades, is to assess the ocean’s role in global climate. This question is being addressed within the coastal, regional and global components of OOI. The infrastructure that is currently planned for these sites is designed to enable characterization of a wide range of underlying processes. A major emphasis of the Global component of the OOI (www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=24237) is to provide important insights into the exchange of carbon between the ocean and the atmosphere – a central issue in understanding controls on the Earth’s climate system.

However, we believe there is a void in this observation program with respect to two crucial aspects of the ocean’s role in the global carbon cycle – the fixation of CO2 by primary productivity in the surface ocean, and the removal of carbon to deep waters via the so-called “biological pump”. Our understanding of these processes is sufficiently limited that we are presently unable to predict the future health of marine ecosystems in the face of a changing ocean environment, or how the biological pump will respond to, or participates in the changing boundary conditions of the Earth’s climate. The OOI infrastructure provides an extraordinary opportunity to implement a parallel, sustained biological and biogeochemical observation program to comprehensively characterize both marine primary productivity and the oceanic biological pump in key oceanographic regions. We believe it is imperative that the biogeochemical community embraces the OOI in order to realize the full potential of this major initiative, and exploits the associated physical and cyber infrastructure to address fundamental questions in ocean carbon cycling and related biogeochemical processes. Such an undertaking requires extensive planning and widespread support from the community. Given that the first elements of the OOI infrastructure will be deployed within the next few years, it is critical that rapid progress be made towards the realization of a global biogeochemical flux component of the Ocean Observatories Initiative (“GBF-OOI”).

In an effort to catalyze this activity, a “White Paper” was distributed in June, 2010 in web format to the Ocean and Carbon Biogeochemistry (OCB) community (www.whoi.edu/GBF-OOI/). The document seeks to provide scientific justification for sustained global-scale biological/biogeochemical observations, outline core observation and measurement strategies, and highlight some of the recent and on-going technological developments that pave the way for comprehensive autonomous characterization of different components of the biological pump.

Workshop objectives

The workshop will seek to define the scope and refine the objectives of the GBF-OOI. The workshop will bring together biologists, biogeochemists, modelers, and ocean technologists with a view towards establishing the framework for a future program and developing a document that will effectively articulate the scientific value of the proposed initiative and its synergy with the OOI. A scientific steering committee comprised of the workshop conveners and other individuals who together encompass the range of relevant disciplines has been created to aid in the identification of workshop subthemes and selection of invited speakers.

The proposed workshop is directly relevant to both of the current overarching scientific themes listed in the OCB solicitation, namely to improve understanding and prediction of: (1) oceanic uptake, storage and release of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases, (2) climate sensitivities of biogeochemical cycles and interactions with ecosystem structure.