The Ocean Floor

(© MARUM – Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen)
Clusters of Excellence

Ocean Floor – Earth’s Uncharted Interface

The ocean floor, which makes up 71 % of the Earth’s solid sur­face, lies an av­er­age of 3,700 meters be­neath the ocean sur­face. The dif­fi­culties re­lated to ac­cess­ib­il­ity ne­ces­sit­ate ship ex­ped­i­tions and the use of highly spe­cial­ized un­der­wa­ter equip­ment for its ex­plor­a­tion.

As yet, only a small frac­tion of the ocean floor has been sci­en­tific­ally in­vest­ig­ated, but it is already known that this sup­posedly pass­ive en­vir­on­ment is an im­port­ant in­ter­face with a wide range of func­tions that im­pact the en­tire Earth sys­tem. Geo­lo­gical, phys­ical, bio­lo­gical and chem­ical pro­cesses in­ter­act at and within the ocean floor, thus in­flu­en­cing the cli­mate sys­tem, the global car­bon cycle, and bio­lo­gical pro­ductiv­ity in the world ocean. We still know too little about ocean-floor pro­cesses to com­pile de­tailed global mass budgets.

The Cluster of Ex­cel­lence ›The Ocean Floor – Earth’s Un­charted In­ter­face‹ aims to ini­ti­ate a new chapter in ocean-floor re­search by quan­ti­fy­ing ex­change pro­cesses at this sig­ni­fic­ant bound­ary layer and their roles in the Earth sys­tem. This will be achieved by:

  • deciphering processes that control the transport of biogenic particles to the ocean floor and their transformation under changing climate conditions,
  • balancing the transfer of carbon and other elements between the ocean floor and seawater,
  • understanding how ocean-floor ecosystems react to environmental changes, and
  • developing scenarios for a ›warmer-than-present world‹ from ocean-floor climate archives with the help of climate models.

These sci­entific tasks de­mand the use of novel tech­no­lo­gies for ocean-floor ob­ser­va­tion and sampling, highly sens­it­ive ana­lyt­ical meth­ods, and an ex­pan­ded ap­plic­a­tion of nu­mer­ical mod­els. Be­cause of their sci­entific and tech­no­lo­gical com­plex­ity, the stated goals can only be achieved through in­ter­dis­cip­lin­ary re­search..

Involved Institutions:

  • Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie
  • Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
  • Jacobs University Bremen gGmbH
  • Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg
  • Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT) GmbH

Podcast on the Cluster of Excellence

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