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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: Geotraces

Currently Active: 

GEOTRACES is an international programme which aims to improve the understanding of biogeochemical cycles and large-scale distribution of trace elements and their isotopes in the marine environment.

Scientists from approximately 30 nations have been involved in the programme, which is designed to study all major ocean basins over the next decade.

GA06, a UK GEOTRACES cruise, was led by Eric Achterberg on the RRS Discovery in February/March 2011. The main aim of this project is to determine the supply of nutrients (including iron and phosphorus) to the microbial community in the surface ocean of the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and determine the uptake rates of iron and phosphorus by nitrogen fixers (diazotrophs). Diazotrophs form a key component of the community in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, have a high iron requirement but also require phosphorus to grow. As part of the cruise we determined the supply of nutrients and other elements to the surface waters from the atmosphere (including Saharan dust), shelf sediments and deep waters (through vertical diffusion). Horizontal transport will be assessed using modelling approaches.

GA10, a UK GEOTRACES research cruise, was conducted aboard RRS Discovery in October/November 2010. This 40oS section across the South Atlantic will be reoccupied using RRS James Cook in December/January 2012 to complete the water column and sediment sampling. The aims of this programme are two-fold: to characterize the sources, sinks and fluxes of trace metals and their isotopes across the southern Atlantic and to evaluate how sediments record the export of carbon and functioning of the biological carbon pump to develop our understanding of proxies for past ocean conditions.

PIs:  Professor Rachel A MillsProfessor Eric Achterberg and Dr Mark Moore.

Funding: NERC.

Programme websites: and

Expedition webpage:

Related research groups

Marine Biogeochemistry
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