Robotic Rover Image
Benthic Rover II travels across the muddy seafloor, taking photographs and measuring how much oxygen bottom-dwelling animals and microbes are using over time. The information gathered by this autonomous rover has helped scientists understand how carbon cycles from the surface to the seafloor. (Image: © 2016 MBARI)

An autonomous robotic rover, Benthic Rover II, has provided new insight into life 13,100 feet beneath the surface of the ocean. The data collected are fundamental to understanding the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

Between November 2015 and November 2020, the rover recorded a substantial increase in the rain of dead phytoplankton and other plant-rich debris landing on the seafloor from the waters overhead. A decrease in the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the waters just above the deep seafloor accompanied this windfall of organic matter.

Traditional short-term monitoring tools would not have detected the fluctuations that drive long-term changes and trends. Benthic Rover II has revealed a more complete picture of how carbon moves from the surface to the seafloor.