The SNOWMAN: a new experimental device to study quantitatively the link between phytoplankton community structure, the dynamics of marine snow formation and export time lag.
The SNOWMAN (Simulator of Non-finite Open-Wheeled Marine Aggregation and siNking) has been developed to address these limitations, and explore quantitatively the links between plankton community structure, the kinetics of marine snow formation and export timing. The design of the SNOWMAN consists of an innovative double tank apparatus with an open-wheel system. It permits traditional marine particle aggregation by differential settling in the inner perforated tank but also enables the continuous export of the largest aggregates by sinking in a second compartment connected to a settling column. We present here for the first time quantitative experimental data of the influence of phytoplankton community, variations in aggregation kinetics and export timing and provide new insights into the relationship between community structure and the time lag of export flux. We demonstrate the potential of the SNOWMAN for marine snow studies (e.g. zooplankton interactions, microbial degradation, contaminant incorporation) and demonstrate how it can improve our understanding of the complex lever that ecosystem structure exerts on the spatio-temporal variations of the BCP.