The goal of the EXPORTS field campaign is to develop a predictive understanding of the export and fate of global ocean primary production and its implications for the Earth’s carbon cycle in present and future climates.

NASA’s satellite ocean-color data record has revolutionized our understanding of global marine systems by providing synoptic and repeated global observations of phytoplankton stocks and rates of primary production. EXPORTS is designed to advance the utility of NASA ocean color assets to predict how changes in ocean primary production will impact the global carbon cycle. EXPORTS will create a predictive understanding of both the export of organic carbon from the well-lit, upper ocean (or euphotic zone) and its fate in the underlying “twilight zone” (depths of 500 m or more) where a variable fraction of that exported organic carbon is respired back to CO2. Ultimately, it is this deep organic carbon transport and its sequestration that defines the impact of ocean biota on atmospheric CO2 levels and hence climate. EXPORTS will generate a new, detailed understanding of ocean carbon transport processes and pathways linking phytoplankton primary production within the euphotic zone to the export and fate of produced organic matter in the underlying twilight zone using a combination of field campaigns, remote sensing and numerical modeling. NASA’s upcoming advanced ocean measurement mission, PACE, will be aimed at quantifying carbon cycle processes far beyond today’s ocean color retrievals of phytoplankton pigment concentrations, optical properties and primary production rates. The overarching objective for EXPORTS is to ensure the success of these future satellite mission goals by establishing mechanistic relationships between remotely sensed signals and carbon cycle processes. Through a process-oriented approach, EXPORTS will foster new insights on ocean carbon cycling that will maximize its societal relevance and be a key component in the U.S. investment to understand Earth as an integrated system.

The EXPORTS project website is hosted at http://oceanexports.org/