The Biological Pump in the Past

M. P. Hain, Daniel Mikhail Sigman, G. H. Haug

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

69 Scopus citations


The ocean's 'biological pump' refers to the coupled biological, chemical, and physical processes that work to concentrate carbon and other biologically active elements in the voluminous ocean interior, sequestering them from the surface ocean and the atmosphere. Current research seeks to understand the relationship of the ocean's biological pump to the Earth's environmental, chemical, and climatic history. Changes in the efficiency of the biological pump are central to most current hypotheses for the cause of the coherent variations of atmospheric CO2 over the ice age climate cycles (i.e., glacial vs. interglacial stages). Here, we review the concepts, tools, and observations relating to this topic. While the biological pump is driven by biological activity in the sunlit surface ocean, its global efficiency is shown to be affected by the ocean's physical circulation, and its net effect on atmospheric CO2 is shown to work through the ocean's acid-base chemistry. We integrate these findings into a proposed recipe for the major dynamics driving CO2 change over the past 800000 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oceans and Marine Geochemistry
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9780080983004
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


  • Biological pump
  • Carbon cycle
  • Carbonate pump
  • Glacial/interglacial cycles
  • Soft-tissue pump


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