"Our research projects will improve the understanding of physical and biological processes associated with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and the Weddell Gyre, both of which play a key role for the earth's climate", explains chief scientist Prof Dr Ulrich Bathmann of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association, referring to the central goal of the expedition. Plankton algae from these two marine currents south of the Atlantic Ocean are absorbing significant amounts of the climate gas carbon dioxide through their growth during the summer. By sinking to the Antarctic deep sea, these algae are subsequently transferring the carbon dioxide to the seafloor, where, in some cases below 4000 meter water depth, they provide food for bottom dwelling organisms. "The efficiency of this biological pump is controlled, for example, by nutrients, by physical dynamics in the ocean surface layer, and by the species of algae involved", says Bathmann. "We have to investigate these complex interactions further, in order to optimise scientific climate predictions."
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