Electronic Glossary: Acronyms, Abbreviations and Terminology

This glossary will be updated pending upon suggestions of contributors and readers. Please send suggestions to <continental.margins@gmail.com>.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M  N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Agulhas Current
  A warm current that carries Indian Ocean water around the southern tip of Africa and into the Atlantic Ocean.
Air-sea carbon exchange
  The mass exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and sea water driven and controlled by physical gas exchange processes, principally the partial pressure difference between the gaseous and aqueous phases and the boundary layer transport processes (often correlated with wind speed).
  area from which materials are transported by winds to an area or a water body.
anoxic (anoxia)
  Without oxygen (the condition of abnormally low oxygen)
Antarctic Circumpolar Current
  The eastward-flowing current that encircles Antarctica and extends from the surface to the deep-ocean floor. The largest volume current in the oceans.
Antarctic Intermediate Waters
  Antarctic zone surface water that sinks at the Antarctic convergence and flows north at a depth of about 900 m beneath the warmer upper-water mass of the South Atlantic subtropical gyre.
Antilles Current
  A northward flowing current located eastward of the Bahama Islands that is fed by the North Equatorial Current and in turn feeds the Gulf Stream.
  describing ecosystem processes which produce organic matter using sunlight (photo-autotrophic) or chemical energy (chemo-autotrophic) as energy sources, carbon dioxide as the sole carbon source, and which require inorganic nutrients (DIN, DIP) to support synthesis of organic material.
autotrophy (autotrophic)
  Plant or bacterium that can synthesize organic compounds from inorganic nutrients.

  unicellular organisms with no distinct cell nucleus.
barrier reef
  a coral reef surrounding an island or lying parallel to the shore of a continent, separated from land by a deep lagoon. Coral debris islands may form along the reef.
Benthic-pelagic coupling
  the cycling of nutrients between the bottom sediments and overlying water column
  bottom-dwelling marine organisms
biogenic sediments
  sediment of biological origin. Organisms can deposit calcareous (calcium-containing) or siliceous (silicon-containing) residue
biogeochemical cycles
  The natural cycling of compounds among the living and nonliving components of an ecosystem.
  chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes and reactions that govern the composition of the natural environment
Biological pump
  Removal of carbon from the surface ocean by organisms, primarily phytoplankton
  the mass of living material in a given area or volume of habitat
boundary current
  northward or southward-directed surface currents that flow parallel to continental margins; caused by deflection of the prevailing eastward and westward-flowing currents by continents
brackish character
  properties pertaining to brackish water
Brackish groundwater
  groundwater that has more salts than fresh water, but not as much as seawater
brackish waters
  low salinity water, typically with a salinity between 5 and 25.
  The summation of fluxes (q.v.) to balance inputs and outputs in a defined domain.

California Current
  Moderate productivity equatorward-flowing current off North America
Canary Current
  The cold eastern boundary current of the North Atlantic subtropical gyre.
Carbon cycle
  Flow of organic and inorganic carbon between organisms, earth, atmosphere and ocean
Carbon dioxide
  CO2, Greenhouse gas produced naturally and by man’s burning of fossil fuel
Carbon yield
  in this context, specific or regional mass of carbon (dissolved or particulate) reaching the sea.
  CArbon Retention In A Colored Ocean (CARIACO) ocean time series program established at 10o30’ N, 64o40’ W in November 1995 in the Cariaco Basin, off the coast of Venezuela.
Cariaco Basin
  1,400 m deep depression on the continental shelf off Venezuela openly connected to the Caribbean Sea, which is the largest anoxic basin of truly oceanic character. Depth of anoxia varies between about 250 and 375 m below the surface.
  green pigments that occur chiefly in bodies called chloroplasts in plants and algae that carry out photosynthesis using energy from sunlight.
  The flow of air masses in the atmosphere or water masses in the ocean
  Continental Margins Task Team, co-sponsored by JGOFS and LOICZ from 1995 to 2005 and by IMBER and LOICZ after 2006
CO2 (air-sea) exchange
  Movement of CO2 gas across the air/ocean boundary, driven by pressure gradients and facilitated by wind
CO2 uptake
  Absorption of CO2 by the ocean or other water bodies through solubilization or by autotrophic organisms (such as plants or algae) during photosynthesis
Coastal current
  Flow of fresher water (from river/estuary discharge) along the coast, usually cyclonically relative to the sea area.
coastal megacities
  Big cities on or near the coast
coastal ocean
  shallow portion of the ocean, generally situated over continental shelves.
Coastal Transition Zone
  Region of mesoscale mixing between the coastal upwelling system and the offshore eastern boundary current
coastal upwelling
  Upwelling adjacent to a coast, usually induced by wind. The movement of deeper nutrient-rich water into the surface water mass as a result of windblown surface water moving offshore.
Coastal upwelling system
  Coastal region of wind-driven upwelling of subsurface, nutrient rich seawater into the lighted surface ocean
coastal zone
  the coastal land area, extending inland to an elevation of a few hundred meters, which is influenced by and itself influences the coastal ocean.
coccolithophorids (coccolithophores)
  A very small planktonic alga carrying discs of calcium carbonate, which contributes to biogenous sediments.
  colored dissolved organic matter
continental margin
  The submerged outer edge of a continent, in contrast to ocean basin; includes the continental shelf, slope and rise.
continental shelf
  (1) Gradually sloping, submerged extension of a continent, composed of granitic rock overlain by sediments. Has features similar to the edge of the nearby continent.
(2) Seafloor adjacent to a continent, extending from the low-water line to the change in slope, usually at about 180 meter's depth, where continental shelf and continental slope join.
Continental slope
  Extends from the edge of the shelf (q.v.) until the bed gradient markedly decreases towards the deep ocean basin.
  (1) Movement within a fluid resulting from differential heating and cooling of the fluid. Convection produces mass transport of mixing of the fluid.
(2) Vertical movements of air, water, or other Earth materials.
  minute shrimp-like crustaceans; most are between about 0.5 and 10 millimeters in length.
coral reef
  A linear mass of calcium carbonate (aragonite and calcite) assembled from coral organisms, algae, mollusks, worms, and so on. Coral may contribute less than half of the reef material.
  Mass flow of water. (The term is usually reserved for horizontal movement.)
  one-celled algae which are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen gas into more complex forms usable to plants.

deep chlorophyll maximum (maxima)
  A peak concentration of phytoplankton chlorophyll in the subsurface layer of the water column instead of in the surface layer, usually occurring in nutrient poor subtropical oceans
deep export and deposition
  The transfer of organic carbon to oceanic deep water masses and deep sea floor.
  The microbially-mediated process by which fixed nitrogen is transformed into dinitrogen (N2). This generally is thought to proceed through the successive reduction of NO3- and NO2- although new denitrification pathways involving other forms of fixed nitrogen have recently been identified.
  in this context, a shelf or slope region of enhanced deposition of locally produced (autochthonous) or introduced (allocthonous) sedimentary material.
Diapyncal flow
  flow along across density surfaces.
  Earth's most abundant, successful, and efficient single-celled phytoplankton. Diatoms possess two interlocking valves made primarily of silica. The valves contribute to biogenous sediments.
  Nitrogen fixing organisms, which are capable of utilizing dinrogen (N2) as nitrogen source
  dissolved inorganic carbon
dimethyl sulfide (DMS)
  S(CH3)2, a gaseous compound released from phytoplankton produced organic matter and serves as an important precursor of atmospheric SO2, which may be oxideized to form sulfate particles that may act as cloud condensation nuclei
  dissolved inorganic nitrogen
  One of a class of microscopic single-celled flagellates, not all of which are autotrophic. The outer covering is often of stiff cellulose. Planktonic dinoflagellates are often responsible for "red tides."
  dissolved inorganic phosphorus
  Dissolved organic carbon, mainly refractory
  (1) The opposite of upwelling (q.v.); wind drives near-surface waters towards the coast and thence down to a return offshore flow below.
(2) the process of convergence of surface water such that the surface water must flow downward

eastern boundary current margins
  Continental margin systems bounded on the seaward edge by an eastern boundary current.
eastern boundary currents
  Weak, cold, diffuse, slow-moving current at the eastern boundary of an ocean (off the west coast of a continent).
eddy (eddies)
  A circular movement of water usually formed where currents pass obstructions, or between two adjacent currents flowing in opposite directions, or along the edge of a permanent current.
Ekman Layer
  Surface layer of the ocean affected by wind
Ekman Processes
  movement of surface waters because of wind friction and Coriolis effect
Ekman transport
  Net water transport, the sum of layer movement due to the Ekman spiral. Theoretical Ekman transport in the Northern Hemisphere is 90° to the right of the wind direction.
El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO)
  a slow oscillation in which the atmosphere and ocean interact to produce a slow, irregular variation between two extremes, sometimes called El Niño and La Niña or warm phase and cool phase.
  Acronym for the couple phenomena of El Niño and the Southern Oscillation.
Euphotic zone
  (1) upper layer of the ocean where light is sufficient to support photosynthesis.
(2) The upper layer of the photic zone in which net photosynthetic gain occur.
  A set of physical, chemical, and biological changes brought about when excessive nutrients are released into the water.
excess Ra
  the fraction of radium that is not supported by its parent nuclides, mainly indicating Ra-226 unsupported by U-234.
  This applies particularly to flow between ocean and shelf. The net flux of water may be small but different concentrations of constituents in inflow (to the shelf) and outflow may result in important net constituent flux.
Export system
  a shelf ecosystem which fixes more organic matter than it respires, sending the surplus offshore or to the benthos; generally net-autotrophic and supported by import of inorganic nutrients.

Fixed nitrogen
  Chemical forms of nitrogen other than dinitrogen (N2) that are readily available for use by organisms. These commonly include NO3-, NO2-, NH4+, and dissolved organic nitrogen.
  A deep, narrow estuary in a valley originally cut by a glacier.
Florida Current
  The current that passes between Florida and the Bahama Islands and, with the Antilles Current, forms the Gulf Stream.
  describing deposits formed by rivers.
  Rate of transfer of a constituent across a domain boundary or between defined “compartments” of the ecosystem. Includes inputs from rivers and inputs from or outputs to the atmosphere. For water this includes precipitation and evaporation.
food web
  A group of organisms associated by a complex set of feeding relationships in which the flow of food energy can be followed from primary producers through consumers.
  in this context, the ratio of uptake of nitrate to the sum of ammonium and nitrate; generally higher in export systems than recycling systems.
  The boundary between two air or water masses of different properties. The difference can be caused by differences in temperature and/or humidity (salinity) for air (water) masses.
Frontal eddies
  small scale (100 km long by 50 km wide) eddy structures in western boundary currents

gas exchange
  Simultaneous passage of gases, such as oxygen or carbon dioxide, through a water-air interface, often in opposite directions.
global margin fluxes
  Total material fluxes occurring at continental margin systems globally.
greenhouse gas
  Gases in Earth's atmosphere that cause the greenhouse effect; these include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and CFCs.
Gulf Stream
  The dominant, northward flowing western boundary current in the North Atlantic Ocean basin.

  The zone of the ocean in which salinity increases rapidly with depth.
  describing ecosystem respiration processes in which energy is provided from the breakdown of organic matter, which releases nutrients to the environment.
Houtman Abrolhos Islands (or the Abrolhos)
  situated near the edge of the continental shelf off Geraldton (28°45’S) of Western Australia, the southern-most true reef building corals in the Indian Ocean, partly because of the influence of the Leeuwin Current
Hydraulic gradients
  a vector gradient between two or more hydraulic head measurements over the length of the flow path.
  the geology of groundwater, especially concerning the physical, biological, and chemical properties of its occurrence and movement.
hydrological cycle
  The cycle of water exchange among the atmosphere, land, and ocean through the processes of evaporation, precipitation, runoff, and subsurface percolation.
  the science of the properties, distribution, and effects of water in the atmosphere, on a earth’s surface, and in the soil and underlying rocks.

  large mass of detached freshwater ice floating in the sea or stranded in shallow water.
internal wave
  A wave that develops below the surface of a fluids, the density of which changes with increased depth. This change may be gradual or occur abruptly at an interface.
  lines of equal value
  nuclides having the same number of protons in their nuclei (and hence belonging to the same element) but differing in the number of neutrons (and therefore in mass number or energy content); also, a radionuclide or a preparation of an element with special isotopic composition, used principally as an isotopic tracer.

  free-swimming coelenterates having a disk-or bell-shaped body of jellylike consistency. Many have long tentacles with stinging cells.

Kelvin waves
  Wave that results when a progressive tide wave moves from the open ocean into and out of a relatively narrow body of water during a tidal cycle; the tidal range will be greater on the right side of the narrow body of water during flood tide. This results from the fact that the channel rotates in a counterclockwise direction as Earth rotates, while the wave tends to move in a straight line.
  Eupbausia superba, a thumb-sized crustacean common in Antarctic waters.
  The dominant, northward flowing western boundary current in the North Pacific Ocean basin, originating from bifurcation of the north equatorial current near the Mindanao Island in the Philippines.
Kuroshio Extension
  The northeastern extension of the Kuroshio Current that becomes the North Pacific Current.

La Niña
  An event during which normal tropical Pacific atmospheric and oceanic circulation strengthens and the surface temperature of the eastern South Pacific drops below average values. Usually occurs at the end of an ENSO event. See ENSO.
  A shallow body of seawater generally isolated from the ocean by a barrier island. Also the body of water enclosed within an atoll, or the water within a reverse estuary.
Leeuwin Current
  a warm ocean current that flows strongly southwards along the Western Australian coast, before turning eastwards at Cape Leeuwin and continuing into the Great Australian Bight
  Land Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone, a core project of International Geosphere/Biosphere Programme. (http://www.loicz.org )
Loop Current
  A current that passes through the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico and feeds the Florida Current.

  Large flowering shrub or tree that grows in dense thickets or forests along muddy or silty tropical coasts.
Margin-open ocean carbon exchange
  The mass exchange of carbon between continental margin and open ocean ecosystems.
  lateral movement of boundary currents on scales of hundreds to thousands of kilometers
Mixing models
  various inverse model methods often used to infer system level nutrient sources and sinks, and/or net ecosystem metabolism.
Model II regression
  statistical regression which accounts for errors in both dependent and independent variables. Conventional regression approaches (Model I regression) assume errors only in the dependent variable.
  A pattern of wind circulation that changes with the season. Also, the rainy season in areas with monsoon wind patterns.
monsoonal margins
  Continental margin systems that are controlled by monsoonal wind regimes. An example is the Indian Ocean margin adjacent to Oman, on the Arabian Peninsula.

Net autotrophic
  describing an ecosystem in which ecosystem production exceeds ecosystem respiration
Net ecosystem metabolism
  the balance of carbon fixation and respiration at the ecosystem level.
Net heterotrophic
  describing an ecosystem in which ecosystem respiration exceeds ecosystem respiration
New production
  Primary production supported by nitrate from subsurface waters
  One of several phytoplankton nutrients
Nonconservative fluxes
  In the jargon of oceanography, internal sources and sinks of nutrients within an ecosystem that are present in addition to those associated with water flow and mixing. Often, these are estimated from nutrient budgets.
North Pacific Central Gyre
  Blue, low productivity waters of the central north Pacific Ocean
  A mineral used to fuel phytoplankton growth; notably ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, phosphate and silicate; also iron and some other trace metals.
Nutrient budget
  an accounting of the observable fluxes into and out of an ecosystem, usually with the purpose of estimating the unobservable sources and sinks necessary for balancing the budget.


  Name given by Alfred Wegener to the original 'protocontinent.' The breakup of Pangaea gave rise to the Atlan Ocean and to the continents we see today.
  Microscopic floating organisms that perform photosynthesis in the ocean and drive the biological pump
  Particulate organic carbon, mainly phytoplankton and their debris
polar margins
  Polar margins as defined in this work are those margins that are within the Arctic Ocean or that are adjacent to Antarctica.
Poleward slope current
  Current along the upper continental slope in most sectors from Iberia to Norway (and likewise along many other eastern ocean margins), forced by the oceanic density field and affected by winds.
population density
  The number of individuals per unit area
  Liquid or solid water that falls from the air and reaches the surface as rain, hail, or snowfall.
Primary production
  (1) Photosynthetic conversion of CO2 by phytoplankton to organic carbon.
(2) The growth of phytoplankton, the first “level” of marine life.
(3) The total elaboration of new body substance (biomass) in a stock during a unit time.


  One of a group of usually planktonic amoeba-like animals with a siliceous shell, which contributes to biogenous sediments.
Recycled production
  Primary production supported by ammonia recycled in surface waters
Recycling system
  a shelf ecosystem which gains most nutrients from oxidation of organic matter; often net heterotrophic, importing fixed material and exporting inorganic nutrients.
Red tide
  a common name for the phenomenon known as an excessive algal bloom in the water column, mostly in coastal seas.
residence time
  The average length of time a dissolved substance spends in a water body, such as a lake, a bay or the entire ocean.

  A measure of dissolved solids in seawater, usually expressed in grams per kilogram or parts per thousand by weight.
  (1) Particles of organic or inorganic matter that accumulate in a loose, unconsolidated form.
(2) Particulate material that may be moved by currents and otherwise tends to settle on the bed
Sediment yield
  Total mass of eroded sediment exported out of the watershed divided by the area of the watershed.
  the process by which a liquid leaks through a porous substance.
Shear dispersion
  Diffusion of a constituent between layers with different velocity enhances lateral spreading of that constituent.
  A short name for continental shelf
Shelf-dominated margins
  A margin endmember classification characterized, in a relative sense, by generally broad continental shelves, longer residence times of shelf waters, increased role of benthic regeneration and supply of nutrients, increased role of bottom friction in vertical mixing, and with the majority of primary production generally occurring shoreward of the shelfbreak.
Slope-dominated margins
  A margin endmember classification characterized, in a relative sense, by generally narrow continental shelves, shorter residence times of shelf waters, decreased role of benthic regeneration and supply of nutrients, decreased role of bottom friction in vertical mixing and with the majority of the primary production generally occurring seaward of the shelfbreak.
South Atlantic Bight (SAB)
  The continental shelf region on the southeastern United States between Cape Canaveral and Cape Hatteras.
  In particular, summer heating in deeper shelf-sea areas with weaker tidal currents produces a warmer, less dense surface layer.
  The downward movement of water masses into the subsurface layer.
Submarine groundwater discharge
  the net flow of fresh and brackish groundwater through an aquifer medium to the sea.
subpolar margins
  Margin systems that occur equatorward of the polar margins and poleward of the eastern and western boundary current margins.
  The sector of the ocean basin with broadly cyclonic circulation; in the North Atlantic this is between about 40°N and the Nordic Seas.

Tidal pumping
  a type of submarine groundwater discharge force that is regulated by daily or bi-monthly tides.
Trade wind
  Surface winds within the Hadley cells, centered at about 15° latitude, which approach from the northeast in the North Hemisphere and from the southeast in the South Hemisphere.
transport and exchange processes
  Processes that account for transfer of mass between and within biogeochemical reservoirs and systems.
tropical margins
  Margin systems in the tropical regions, generally within 15° of the equator.

  (1) oceanographic process in which deeper dense, cooler, and usually nutrient-rich water moves toward the ocean surface, replacing the warmer, frequently nutrient-depleted surface water.
(2) Deeper water replacing near-surface waters that diverge owing to wind-stress (here driving near-surface waters away from the coast and shelf).
Upwelling index
  Measure of the rate of wind-driven coastal upwelling


Warm core rings
  anti-cyclonic eddies spun off from western boundary currents between the current and the coast.
water budget
  an accounting for the interchanges of water among the land, atmosphere, and ocean or between two water bodies.
  land area from which all waters flow into a body of water such as a river or estuary.
West Wind Drift Current
  The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, driven by powerful westerly winds north of Antarctica. The largest of all ocean currents, it continues permanently eastward without changing direction.
western boundary current (WBC)
  (1) Strong, warm, concentrated, fast-moving current at the western boundary of an ocean (off the east coast of a continent). Examples include the Gulf Stream and the Japan (Kuroshio) Current.
(2) Strong, narrow, deep currents on western side of ocean basins.
(3) Poleward-flowing warm currents on the western side of all subtropical gyres.
western boundary current margins
  Margin systems bounded on the seaward edge by a western boundary current.
  The mass movement of air.



  Animal members of the plankton community.
  In LOICZ terminology, the magnitude of internal sources or sinks of DIP and DIN. If positive, ΔDIP is taken to indicate an internal source of DIP, and thus a net-heterotrophic system. If negative, it is taken to indicate an internal sink of DIP, and thus a net-autotrophic system