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Hot-spots in biological transformation of silica


Our scientific concept of the silica cycle is evolving rapidly. New research during the first decennium of this new millennium has clearly shown that silica mobilisation from terrestrial habitats to the aquatic continuum is biologically controlled. Vegetation takes up dissolved silica (DSi) from soil and ground-water and temporally stores it as amorphous Si (ASi) in biomass. This new concept of biological buffering of the silica cycle is essential. The relative newness and novelty of the concept means there are still major gaps in our fundamental understanding, and the integration of processes at different spatial and temporal scales is lacking. Addressing these knowledge gaps is essential. The silica cycle is closely connected to the carbon cycle. Mineral weathering of silicates is an important sink for atmospheric CO2: incomplete knowledge of the bio-Si buffer impedes the accurate quantification of this sink. Moreover, the import of Si into coastal zones from the terrestrial environment is essential to sustain diatom growth. Diatoms play a key role in the oceanic C-sink and in the eutrophication problems in coastal zones. Wetlands provide prime circumstances for biological silica accumulators like grasses, sedges and diatoms to flourish. In this context, tropical rivers attract special attention. They transport huge amounts of suspended material of biological origin into coastal zones. Yet, these areas have received virtually no scientific attention regarding silica biogeochemistry. In this proposal, we aim to conduct studies in two tropical systems, which can be considered hot-spots for biological Si cycling: the Okavango Delta (Kenya) and the Fly River (Papua New Guinea). The overall objective of the proposed research is to increase our understanding of the biological Si processing in tropical river systems. The objectives will be met both through well-planned sampling expeditions and analysis

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Prinsstraat 13
2000 Antwerpen

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Anne Adams (Ms.)
EU contribution
€ 45 000