Encyclopedia of Geochemistry

2018 Edition
| Editors: William M. White

Biological Pump

  • Sarah L. C. GieringEmail author
  • Matthew P. Humphreys
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39312-4_154


The biological pump is the collection of marine biogeochemical processes that convert dissolved inorganic matter in the surface ocean into biomass and transport this to the ocean interior, where the biomass is returned to its original dissolved inorganic forms.


The concentrations of elements vary throughout the global ocean. Concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC – the sum of the aqueous CO2 (<1%), bicarbonate (~90%), and carbonate ion (~10%) concentrations) and nutrients are greater in deep waters relative to the near-surface, and in older water masses relative to younger ones. Some trace metals, on the other hand, have higher concentrations in surface waters. The biological pump is an important process that contributes to these gradients.

The biological pump begins in the sunlit upper ocean, called the euphotic zone. Here, photosynthesizing organisms convert DIC and nutrients into biomass, in the form of particular organic matter (e.g.,...

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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ocean Biogeochemistry and EcosystemsNational Oceanography CentreSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Ocean and Earth ScienceUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK