The papers in this special section discuss many aspects of paleoenvironmental analysis performed using various proxies on cores collected in the northeastern and tropical eastern Atlantic during two cruises in the framework of the NERC Biogeochemical Ocean Flux Study Program (BOFS). Coring of the northern BOFS leg was carried out on Leg 3 of the 1989 BOFS program (RRS Discovery cruise 184 [McCave, 1989]). Forty-one cores were taken on a North-South transect at about 20°W, from the flanks of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (47°N) to Gardar Drift (59°N) at water depths between 1150 and 4050 m. Of these, 15 cores were taken using a 3 m- long, large-diameter kastenlot corer designed by Zangger and Mc Cave [199O]. Cruise and core data are given by Manighetti et al. [this issue]. The southern leg coring was carried out on Leg C of the 1990 BOFS program (RRS Charles Darwin cruise 53 [Shimmield, 199O]). Forty-six cores, including 14 using the kastenlot corer, were taken along a transect at about 2O°W, between 18 and 42°N, at depths between 3000 and 4900 m and focusing on an area off northwest Africa .