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Earth and Environmental Sciences Division

"Diatoms: from stardust to the ocean biological carbon pump"
Paul Tréguer
European Institute for Marine StudiesUniversité de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France

"The silicon (Si) was born in the universe several billions of years ago mostly in massive stars by thermonuclear fusion of atoms of oxygen. Although the two elements have very similar electron shell configuration, different from carbon, silicon can share only one electron of its electronic shell, offering simple bonds to other elements. This is why the living world is a carbon world and not a silicon world. However, Si is an essential element in biology and silicifiers are among the most important living organisms of planet Earth not only for the terrestrial but also for the marine realm. The fragile-siliceous-cell-walled diatoms dominated over siliceous sponges and radiolarians over the last 150 millions of years. A recent review article published in Nature Geoscience (Tréguer et al. 2017) highlights the key role of diatoms in the transfer of carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. Through photosynthesis diatoms pick up considerable amounts of carbon dioxide in the surface ocean to build organic carbon, so that the contribution of diatoms to the Earth primary production is equivalent to that of the tropical forests [...]"

Download the complete publication here (PDF): Diatoms : from stardust to the ocean biological carbon pump