Phyto- and Protist Plankton Ecology in the Southern Ocean

Protists (unicellular organisms) in the ocean are responsible for 50 % of the global net primary production. The subsequent aggregation and sinking at depth of this organic material (the so-called "Biological Carbon Pump" or BCP) is an important process in regulating atmospheric CO2 concentrations but also global cycling of other elements. Our research focuses on linking the ecology of key planktonic protist species (primary producers and theirs grazers) with biogeochemistry of the Southern Ocean through both, field campaigns and lab experiments. 

Our main topics are:

- The interactions between bottom-up and top-down controls and their effect on the dynamics and distribution of phytoplankton and heterotrophic protist species.

- The impact of artificial iron fertilization on plankton dynamics and export to the deep-sea, through participation on the three German artificial iron fertilization experiments (EisenEx, EIFEX and LOHAFEX) as well as through studies of naturally fertilized areas in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean.

- The impact of plankton community composition (including ecological characteristics of dominant species) on vertical fluxes (with special emphasis on carbon and silicon cycles).



Working group leader:

Dr. Christine Klaas