Sea change: charting the course for biogeochemical ocean time-series research in a new millennium

Ocean time-series provide vital information needed for assessing ecosystem change. This paper summarizes the historical context, major program objectives, and future research priorities for three contemporary ocean time-series programs: The Hawaii Ocean Time-series (HOT), the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS), and the CARIACO Ocean Time-Series. These three programs operate in physically and biogeochemically distinct regions of the world’s oceans, with HOT and BATS located in the open-ocean waters of the subtropical North Pacific and North Atlantic, respectively, and CARIACO situated in the anoxic Cariaco Basin of the tropical Atlantic. All three programs sustain near-monthly shipboard occupations of their field sampling sites, with HOT and BATS beginning in 1988, and CARIACO initiated in 1996. The resulting data provide some of the only multi-disciplinary, decadal-scale determinations of time-varying ecosystem change in the global ocean. Facilitated by a scoping workshop (September 2010) sponsored by the Ocean Carbon Biogeochemistry (OCB) program, leaders of these time-series programs sought community input on existing program strengths and for future research directions. Themes that emerged from these discussions included:

1. Shipboard time-series programs are key to informing our understanding of the connectivity between changes in ocean-climate and biogeochemistry.

2. The scientific and logistical support provided by shipboard time-series programs forms the backbone for numerous research and education programs. Future studies should be encouraged that seek mechanistic understanding of ecological interactions underlying the biogeochemical dynamics at these sites.

3. Detecting time-varying trends in ocean properties and processes requires consistent, high-quality measurements. Time-series must carefully document analytical procedures and, where possible, trace the accuracy of analyses to certified standards and internal reference materials.

4. Leveraged implementation, testing, and validation of autonomous and remote observing technologies at time-series sites provide new insights into spatiotemporal variability underlying ecosystem changes.

5. The value of existing time-series data for formulating and validating ecosystem models should be promoted.

In summary, the scientific underpinnings of ocean time-series programs remain as strong and important today as when these programs were initiated. The emerging data inform our knowledge of the ocean’s biogeochemistry and ecology, and improve our predictive capacity about planetary change.

Church M. J., Lomas M. W & Muller-Karger F., in press. Sea change: charting the course for biogeochemical ocean time-series research in a new millennium. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. Article (subscription required).


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