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The research groups - Oceans

Royal Museum for Central Africa
Section of Mineralogy and Petrography

Promotor: Prof. Dr. André Luc


The Royal Museum for Central Africa is a federal research institute. The Mineralogy and Petrography Section of the RMCA is active in geochemistry, with a strong concern in biogeochemistry since the early 1990s mostly through development of new proxies. A proxy (or tracer) is a measurable descriptor which stands in for desired (but unobservable) variables like past temperature, upwelling and water masses, nutrient use of phytoplankton, bacterial remineralisation of carbon... The team has been involved in isotopes, trace and major elements analyses in waters, carbonate (mollusks, sclerosponges) and particles. It has also particularly good field knowledge throughout its focus on study areas located in difficult environments, such as Central Africa and the Southern Ocean. The section has unique analytical facilities (shared with the two universities of Brussels, VUB and ULB): clean room, plasma spectrophotometer (ICP-AES), several plasma mass spectrometers, including a laser ablation system (LA-ICP-MS, HR-ICP-MS, MC-ICP-MS). Its most unique, recently developed, analytical know-how consists of (but is not restricted to) measuring silicon isotopes with MC-ICP-MS. Research topics are mainly directed towards environmental biogeochemistry, carbon and silicon cycles via a multi-proxy approach under the framework of several Belgian and European networks.
In Antarctica we are involved in performing these advanced chemical analyses on Southern Ocean (a major actor of the Earth's climate) water, sediments and particles samples. In particular our aims are (i) to quantify carbon fluxes in the intermediate and deep ocean to estimate the oceanic carbon storage capacity (ii) to better understand the silicon cycle, an important nutrient in the Southern Ocean for the phytoplankton dominated by diatoms (unicellular algae building silica tests). Overall the results from this research help in reducing uncertainties for future climate change scenarios provided by models.


Research activities involve the preparation of and participation to sampling campaigns, sample processes and analyses, communication of results in international symposia and via scientific publication in peer-reviewed journals. We also disseminate our expertise to the large public, policy makers and students. Finally our expertise on environmental chemistry is available for specific projects and analyses on various types of samples (soils, industrial waste and materials, archaeology...).

List of projects

Research Group Team

Publication list

Peer-reviewed articles

Cardinal D., F. Dehairs, T. Cattaldo & L. André (2001) Geochemistry of suspended particles in the Subantarctic and Polar Front Zones south of Australia: Constraints on export and advection processes. Journal of Geophysical Research, 106: 31,637-31,656.

Cardinal D., L.Y. Alleman, J. De Jong, K. Ziegler & L. André (2003) Isotopic composition of silicon measured by multicollector plasma source mass spectrometry in dry plasma mode. Journal of Analytical Atomic Spectrometry, 18: 213-218.

Cardinal D., N. Savoye, T.W. Trull, L. André, E.E. Kopczynska & F. Dehairs (2005) Variations of carbon remineralisation in the Southern Ocean illustrated by the Baxs proxy. Deep-Sea Research Part I, 52: 355-370.

Cardinal D., L.Y. Alleman, F. Dehairs, N. Savoye, T.W. Trull & L. André (2005) Relevance of silicon isotopes to Si-nutrient utilization and Si source assessment in Antarctic waters. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 19: GB2007.

Fagel N., F. Dehairs, L. André, G. Bareille & C. Monnin (2002) Ba distribution in surface Southern Ocean sediments and export production estimates. Paleoceanography, 17, 1011.


Dehairs F. et al. (2003) An integrated approach to assess carbon dynamics in the Southern Ocean. In: S. Cashetto (Ed.), Scientific results of the Belgian Scientific Research Programme on the Antarctic - Phase 4 (1997-2001): Vol. I: Marine Biota and Global Change, 135pp.

Wollast R., J.-P. Vanderborght et al. (2005) The role of the ocean in global change. In : G. den Ouden and M. Vanderstraeten (Eds.), Belgian global change research 1990-2002: Assessment and integration report, 111-134.

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