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Carbon sequestration mechanism in oceans

May 2019: New evidence suggests that processes known as “particle injection pumps” are responsible for storing and moving a large amounts of carbon in the ocean. Understanding these complex mechanisms offers opportunities for more precise marine management practices and climate change mitigation.


New evidence indicates that the ‘biological gravitational pump’, i.e. the process whereby phytoplankton absorbs carbon and sinks to the ocean floor, does not account fully for the amount of carbon stored in the deep ocean. Instead, data suggests that an equal amount of carbon is transported in the ocean using pathways known as ‘particle injection pumps’. This includes three-dimensional circulation processes hat capture how vertically migrating animals inject carbon to the deep ocean, mechanisms pushing carbon sideways and seasonal depth changes in the upper ocean layer. The study looks at these lesser known processes and quantifies them in a multidimensional approach.

Implications & Opportunities

The first of its kind study signifies an important step towards understanding how the ocean stores and distributes carbon. It aids the building of more accurate models that predict how the ocean’s carbon cycles will respond to climate change. This can inform climate mitigation measures and allows for more precise marine conservation and management efforts in a time of ocean warming and acidification due to anthropogenic carbon emissions.


The study serves as a contribution to understanding the complex and interactive multidimensional processes in the ocean, but does not offer practical guidance for practitioners or policy makers.


Boyd, P.W., Claustre, H., Levy, M., Siegel, D.A., Weber, T. (2019). Multi-faceted particle pumps drive carbon sequestration in the ocean. Nature, 568 (7752), 327. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1098-2

Futurity. (2019). Oceans have a bunch of ways to lock away carbon. Retrieved from

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Adele Wiliams

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.