Scientists create the first digital map of the seafloor.
Scientists from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences have created the first digital map of the seafloor geology.
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According to the researchers this is the first map in 40 years. The most recent map was hand drawn in the 1970s.
"In order to understand environmental change in the oceans we need to better understand what is preserved in the geological record in the seabed," says lead researcher Dr Adriana Dutkiewicz from the University of Sydney.
"The deep ocean floor is a graveyard with much of it made up of the remains of microscopic sea creatures called phytoplankton, which thrive in sunlit surface waters. The composition of these remains can help decipher how oceans have responded in the past to climate change."
A special group of phytoplankton called diatoms produce about a quarter of the oxygen we breathe and make a bigger contribution to fighting global warming than most plants on land. Their dead remains sink to the bottom of the ocean, locking away their carbon.
The new seafloor geology map demonstrates that diatom accumulations on the seafloor are nearly entirely independent of diatom blooms in surface waters in the Southern Ocean.
"This disconnect demonstrates that we understand the carbon source, but not the sink," says co-author Professor Dietmar Muller from the University of Sydney. More research is needed to better understand this relationship.
"Recent images of Pluto's icy plains are spectacular, but the process of unveiling the hidden geological secrets of the abyssal plains of our own planet was equally full of surprises!" co-author Dr Simon O'Callaghan from NICTA said.
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Published in the latest edition of Geology.