Sediment traps are containers that scientists place in the water to collect particles falling toward the sea floor. The traps collect tiny sediment or larger accumulations called marine snow - made up of organic matter, dead sea creatures, tiny shells, dust and minerals.
Analyzing the samples helps scientists understand how fast nutrients and trace elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, silicon and uranium move from the ocean surface to the deep ocean. These materials are what almost all deep-sea life uses for food (since plants can’t grow in the dark). Other researchers analyze the trace elements for clues about ocean circulation thousands of years ago. And sediment trap data helps to understand the other end of the nutrient cycle: how upwelling currents create such productive fishing areas.
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