Biological Pump and Carbon Exchange Processes (BICEP) project

Photo: Algal bloom / contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The ocean carbon cycle is a vital part of the global carbon cycle. It has been estimated that around a quarter of anthropogenically-produced emissions of CO2, caused from the burning of fossil fuels and land use change, have been absorbed by the ocean. On the other hand, significant advances have been made recently to expand and enhance the quality of a wide range of Remote Sensing based products capturing different aspects of the ocean carbon cycle.

BICEP will bring these developments together to increase understanding of the ocean biological pump and its processes and interactions with the Earth system.

About the project   Project objectives

Project updates


'Untangling the ocean biological carbon pump' - News article from the European Space Agency (ESA).

11th April 2023

A new article has been published on the ESA website which explains the ocean carbon cycle and the BICEP project. It features a useful animation about Phytoplankton and the ocean biological carbon pump as well as a video about Ocean colour - where BICEP PI Dr Shubha Sathyendranath talks about the importance of Earth Observation data in understanding the ocean.

Read the article on the website >


Ocean carbon from space: Current status and priorities for the next decade
Brewin RJW, Sathyendranath S, Kulk G, Rio M-H, Concha JA et al. 2023. Earth-Science Reviews. 240: 104386. doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2023.104386


A conceptual approach to partitioning a vertical profile of phytoplankton biomass into contributions from two communities
Brewin RJW, Dall’Olmo G, Gittings J, Sun X, Lange PK, Raitsos DE, Raitsos DE, Bouman HA, Hoteit I, Aiken J, Sathyendranath. 2022. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans. 127:e2021JC018195


Particulate scattering and backscattering in relation to the nature of particles in the Red Sea
Kheireddine M, Brewin RJW, Ouhssain M, Jones BH. 2021. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126: e2020JC016610.


Ocean Carbon From Space Workshop

ESA, together with Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) and the support from NASA, is organising the Ocean Carbon From Space Workshop, to be held virtually from 14 to 18 February 2022. This workshop is being organised as the second workshop in the CLEO (Colour and Light in the ocean from Earth Observations) Series and is a contribution to the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Work Plan on the Aquatic Carbon Application area, as endorsed by the CEOS Ocean Colour Radiometry Virtual Constellation (OCR-VC) founded within the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group (IOCCG). Read more...


Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021: How can we track and trace carbon from space?

Scientists from the BICEP project will be showing how we can use satellites to study the global carbon cycle during the Royal Society’s Summer Science 2021, which will be going totally digital from 8th to 11th July.

Dr Gemma Kulk and Dr Shubha Sathyendranath will be showcasing their research on phytoplankton – part of the European Space Agency’s ‘Biological Pump and Carbon Exchange Processes’ Read more...


Sensing the ocean biological carbon pump from space: A review of capabilities, concepts, research gaps and future developments.
Brewin RJW, Sathyendranath S, Platt T, Bouman H, Ciavatta S, Dall'Olmo G, Dingle J, Groom S, Jönsson B, Kostadinov TS, Kulk G, Laine M, Martínez-Vicente V, Psarra S, Raitsos DE, Richardson K, Rio M-H, Rousseaux CS, Salisbury J, Shutler JD, Walker P. 2021. Earth-Science Reviews, 217:103604.


Links between phenology of large phytoplankton and fisheries in the Northern and Central Red Sea.
Gittings J., Raitsos D.E., Brewin R.J.W, Hoteit I. 2021. Remote Sensing, 13(2):231.


Trends in winter light environment over the Arctic Ocean: A perspective from two decades of ocean color data.
Jönsson, B., Sathyendranath, S., & Platt, T. 2020. Geophysical Research Letters, 47:e2020GL089037.