BIOS Scientists Mark 25 Years of Sargasso Sea Research

R/V Atlantic Explorer

Since October 1988, scientists have been sampling the deep ocean waters of the Sargasso Sea as part of the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) project, with 2013 marking the program’s 25th year of continuous operation by BIOS.

A recent paper published in the journal Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography provides an overview of the project’s scientific findings under a team of scientists led by Dr. Nicholas Bates (Senior Scientist and Associate Director of Research at BIOS), Dr. Rodney Johnson (Assistant Scientist at BIOS) and Dr. Michael Lomas (former Senior Scientist at BIOS and current Senior Research Scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory).

The authors note that, “With 25 years of measurements for most chemical, physical, and biological water properties, we have moved beyond descriptions of seasonal and year-to-year variability” to addressing long-standing scientific questions about the Sargasso Sea, including:

Why is there a discrepancy between the biological and geochemical estimates of carbon export production?
What supports the seasonal drawdown of carbon dioxide in the absence of detectable nutrients?
What are the sources of the elevated nitrate to phosphate ratio in the seasonal thermocline?

Recent BATS data helps shed light on these scientific questions and makes significant strides in improving scientists’ understanding of the processes and mechanisms that control biogeochemical cycles in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Highlighting the local connection, Dr. Bates notes that, “BATS is one of only a few open ocean time-series in the entire global ocean where data has been collected for a quarter of a century or more. Observations of the ocean surrounding Bermuda help us understand Bermuda’s marine environment and assess the impacts of natural and human-influenced processes on the health of our reefs and inshore waters.”