Climate Change in the Deep

| Tue Apr. 6, 2010 3:03 PM EDT
What happens at the surface doesn't stay at the surface. It seems that changes in Earth's climate can cause unexpectedly large changes in deep-sea ecosystems. Based on 18 years of studies, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's Ken Smith and coauthors show that such ecosystem changes occur over short time scales of weeks to months, as well as over longer periods of years to decades. The paper, Climate, carbon cycling, and deep-ocean ecosystems, is in PNAS. From the From the abstract:
 
"The dependence of deep-sea communities on surface water production has raised important questions about how climate change will affect carbon cycling and deep-ocean ecosystem function. Recently, unprecedented time-series studies conducted over the past two decades in the North Pacific and the North Atlantic at >4,000-m depth have revealed unexpectedly large changes in deep-ocean ecosystems significantly correlated to climate-driven changes in the surface ocean that can impact the global carbon cycle. Climate-driven variation affects oceanic communities from surface waters to the much-overlooked deep sea and will have impacts on the global carbon cycle. Data from these two widely separated areas of the deep ocean provide compelling evidence that changes in climate can readily influence deep-sea processes."
The MBARI video illuminates some of the changes underway in the permanent darkness of the deep sea floor.