Thursday, April 7, 2011

Term in oceanography: marine snow for sinking organic matter

We all know snow as crystallized water, precipitating within the atmosphere of the Earth. This is airborne snow, whereas marine snow is waterborne, precipitating or falling through sea water [1]. Marine snow is decaying material that derives from dead or dying organisms and fecal matter, but also may include sand, soot and other inorganic dust [2].

The amount of forming sea or marine snow range as high as 1000 meters per year [3]: While most of it is consumed or recycled in the surface waters, some continues to sink all the way down to the ocean floor, bringing food/energy from the light-rich upper layers to the dark deep-sea zone, where bottom dwellers will be eager to break down some of the arriving snow.

Keywords: oceanography, decaying materials, organic detritus, vertical food chain

References, viewing and reading
[1] Marine snow video:
[2] National Ocean Service: Marine snow is a shower of organic material falling from upper waters to the deep ocean [].
[3] Rob R. Dunn: Every Living Thing. First Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2009; page 170.

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