skip to main content

Title: What Is Refractory Organic Matter in the Ocean?
About 20% of the organic carbon produced in the sunlit surface ocean is transported into the ocean’s interior as dissolved, suspended and sinking particles to be mineralized and sequestered as dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), sedimentary particulate organic carbon (POC) or “refractory” dissolved organic carbon (rDOC). Recently, the physical and biological mechanisms associated with the particle pumps have been revisited, suggesting that accepted fluxes might be severely underestimated ( Boyd et al., 2019 ; Buesseler et al., 2020 ). Perhaps even more poorly understood are the mechanisms driving rDOC production and its potential accumulation in the ocean. On the basis of recent conflicting evidence about the relevance of DOC degradation in the deep ocean, we revisit the concept of rDOC in terms of its “refractory” nature in order to understand its role in the global carbon cycle. Here, we address the problem of various definitions and approaches used to characterize rDOC (such as turnover time in relation to the ocean transit time, molecule abundance, chemical composition and structure). We propose that rDOC should be operationally defined. However, we recognize there are multiple ways to operationally define rDOC; thus the main focus for unifying future studies should be to explicitly state how more » rDOC is being defined and the analytical window used for measuring rDOC, rather than adhering to a single operational definition. We also conclude, based on recent evidence, that the persistence of rDOC is fundamentally dependent on both intrinsic (chemical composition and structure, e.g., molecular properties), and extrinsic properties (amount or external factors, e.g., molecular concentrations, ecosystem properties). Finally, we suggest specific research questions aimed at stimulating research on the nature, dynamics, and role of rDOC in Carbon sequestration now and in future scenarios of climate change. « less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2023500
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10293017
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Marine Science
Volume:
8
ISSN:
2296-7745
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract. Biogeochemical cycling in the semi-enclosed Arctic Ocean is stronglyinfluenced by land–ocean transport of carbon and other elements and isvulnerable to environmental and climate changes. Sediments of the ArcticOcean are an important part of biogeochemical cycling in the Arctic andprovide the opportunity to study present and historical input and the fate oforganic matter (e.g., through permafrost thawing). Comprehensive sedimentary records are required to compare differencesbetween the Arctic regions and to study Arctic biogeochemical budgets. Tothis end, the Circum-Arctic Sediment CArbon DatabasE (CASCADE) wasestablished to curate data primarily on concentrations of organic carbon(OC) and OC isotopes (δ13C, Δ14C) yet also ontotal N (TN) as well as terrigenous biomarkers and other sedimentgeochemical and physical properties. This new database builds on thepublished literature and earlier unpublished records through an extensiveinternational community collaboration. This paper describes the establishment, structure and current status ofCASCADE. The first public version includes OC concentrations in surfacesediments at 4244 oceanographic stations including 2317 with TNconcentrations, 1555 with δ13C-OC values and 268 with Δ14C-OC values and 653 records with quantified terrigenous biomarkers(high-molecular-weight n-alkanes, n-alkanoic acids and lignin phenols).CASCADE also includes data from 326 sediment cores, retrieved by shallowbox or multi-coring, deep gravity/piston coring, or sea-bottom drilling.The comprehensive dataset reveals large-scalemore »features of both OC contentand OC sources between the shelf sea recipients. This offers insight intorelease of pre-aged terrigenous OC to the East Siberian Arctic shelf andyounger terrigenous OC to the Kara Sea. Circum-Arctic sediments therebyreveal patterns of terrestrial OC remobilization and provide clues about thawing of permafrost. CASCADE enables synoptic analysis of OC in Arctic Ocean sediments andfacilitates a wide array of future empirical and modeling studies of theArctic carbon cycle. The database is openly and freely available online(https://doi.org/10.17043/cascade; Martens et al., 2021), is provided in variousmachine-readable data formats (data tables, GIS shapefile, GIS raster), andalso provides ways for contributing data for future CASCADE versions. Wewill continuously update CASCADE with newly published and contributed dataover the foreseeable future as part of the database management of the BolinCentre for Climate Research at Stockholm University.« less
  2. Abstract
    Site description. This data package consists of data obtained from sampling surface soil (the 0-7.6 cm depth profile) in black mangrove (Avicennia germinans) dominated forest and black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus) saltmarsh along the Gulf of Mexico coastline in peninsular west-central Florida, USA. This location has a subtropical climate with mean daily temperatures ranging from 15.4 °C in January to 27.8 °C in August, and annual precipitation of 1336 mm. Precipitation falls as rain primarily between June and September. Tides are semi-diurnal, with 0.57 m median amplitudes during the year preceding sampling (U.S. NOAA National Ocean Service, Clearwater Beach, Florida, station 8726724). Sea-level rise is 4.0 ± 0.6 mm per year (1973-2020 trend, mean ± 95 % confidence interval, NOAA NOS Clearwater Beach station). The A. germinans mangrove zone is either adjacent to water or fringed on the seaward side by a narrow band of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle). A near-monoculture of J. roemerianus is often adjacent to and immediately landward of the A. germinans zone. The transition from the mangrove to the J. roemerianus zone is variable in our study area. An abrupt edge between closed-canopy mangrove and J. roemerianus monoculture may extend for up to several hundred metersMore>>
  3. Abstract Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is recognized for its importance in freshwater ecosystems, but historical reliance on DOM quantity rather than indicators of DOM composition has led to an incomplete understanding of DOM and an underestimation of its role and importance in biogeochemical processes. A single sample of DOM can be composed of tens of thousands of distinct molecules. Each of these unique DOM molecules has their own chemical properties and reactivity or role in the environment. Human activities can modify DOM composition and recent research has uncovered distinct DOM pools laced with human markers and footprints. Here we review how land use change, climate change, nutrient pollution, browning, wildfires, and dams can change DOM composition which in turn will affect internal processing of freshwater DOM. We then describe how human-modified DOM can affect biogeochemical processes. Drought, wildfires, cultivated land use, eutrophication, climate change driven permafrost thaw, and other human stressors can shift the composition of DOM in freshwater ecosystems increasing the relative contribution of microbial-like and aliphatic components. In contrast, increases in precipitation may shift DOM towards more relatively humic-rich, allochthonous forms of DOM. These shifts in DOM pools will likely have highly contrasting effects on carbon outgassing andmore »burial, nutrient cycles, ecosystem metabolism, metal toxicity, and the treatments needed to produce clean drinking water. A deeper understanding of the links between the chemical properties of DOM and biogeochemical dynamics can help to address important future environmental issues, such as the transfer of organic contaminants through food webs, alterations to nitrogen cycling, impacts on drinking water quality, and biogeochemical effects of global climate change.« less
  4. Coastal salt marshes are distributed widely across the globe and are considered essential habitat for many fish and crustacean species. Yet, the literature on fishery support by salt marshes has largely been based on a few geographically distinct model systems, and as a result, inadequately captures the hierarchical nature of salt marsh pattern, process, and variation across space and time. A better understanding of geographic variation and drivers of commonalities and differences across salt marsh systems is essential to informing future management practices. Here, we address the key drivers of geographic variation in salt marshes: hydroperiod, seascape configuration, geomorphology, climatic region, sediment supply and riverine input, salinity, vegetation composition, and human activities. Future efforts to manage, conserve, and restore these habitats will require consideration of how environmental drivers within marshes affect the overall structure and subsequent function for fisheries species. We propose a future research agenda that provides both the consistent collection and reporting of sources of variation in small-scale studies and collaborative networks running parallel studies across large scales and geographically distinct locations to provide analogous information for data poor locations. These comparisons are needed to identify and prioritize restoration or conservation efforts, identify sources of variation among regions,more »and best manage fisheries and food resources across the globe. Introduction Understanding the drivers of geographic variation in the condition and composition of habitats is crucial to our capacity to generalize management plans across space and time and to clarify and perhaps challenge assumptions of functional equivalence among sites. Broadly defined wetland types such as salt marshes are often assumed to provide similar functions throughout their global range, such as providing nursery habitat for fishery species. However, a growing body of evidence suggests substantial geographic variation in the functioning of salt marsh and other coastal ecosystems (Bradley et al. 2020; Whalen et al. 2020). Variation in ecological patterns and processes within habitat types can alter community structure and dynamics. Local-scale patterns and processes (e.g., patch [10s of meters], local [100s of meters]) can be influenced by processes that occur at larger spatial scales (e.g., regional [kms], global), thereby causing geographic differences in the function and ecosystem service delivery of a given habitat type. Salt marshes (which include vegetated platform, interconnected tidal creeks, fringing mudflats, ponds, and pools) are widely distributed (Fig. 1) and function as valuable nursery habitats by providing key resources for many estuarine species that transition to marine or aquatic habitats as adults (Beck et al. 2001; Minello et al. 2003; Sheaves et al. 2015). However, factors that underlie variability in the delivery of ecological functions are still inadequately understood. Previous studies have explored geographic variation in the function of salt marshes for fish and mobile crustaceans (“nekton”; e.g., Minello et al. 2012, Baker et al. 2013). However, field studies that compare multiple sites across a geographical gradient are typically limited in duration and scale. In addition, the explanatory variables (e.g., elevation, flooding duration, plant structure) collected by smaller scale studies are often inconsistent and therefore limit generalizations across sites.« less
  5. Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) plays a major role in the ocean carbon cycle impacting pH, dissolved inorganic carbon, and alkalinity, as well as particulate organic carbon (POC) export and transfer efficiency to the deep sea. Remote sensing retrievals of PIC in surface waters span two decades, yet knowledge of PIC concentration variability in the water column is temporally and spatially limited due to a reliance on ship sampling. To overcome the space–time gap in observations, we have developed optical sensors for PIC concentration and flux that exploit the high mineral birefringence of CaCO 3 minerals, and thus enable real-time data when deployed operationally from ship CTDs and ARGO-style Carbon Flux Explorer floats. For PIC concentrations, we describe a fast (10 Hz) digital low-power (∼0.5 W) sensor that utilizes cross-polarized transmitted light to detect the photon yield from suspended birefringent particles in the water column. This sensor has been CTD-deployed to depths as great as 6,000 m and cross-calibrated against particulates sampled by large volume in situ filtration and CTD/rosettes. We report data from the September–November 2018 GEOTRACES GP15 meridional transect from the Aleutian Islands to Tahiti along 152°W where we validated two prototype sensors deployed on separate CTD systems surface to bottom atmore »39 stations, many of which were taken in nearly particle-free waters. We compare sensor results with major particle phase composition (particularly PIC and particulate aluminum) from simultaneously collected size-fractionated particulate samples collected by large volume in situ filtration. We also report results from the June 2017 California Current Ecosystem-Long Term Ecological Research (CCE-LTER) process study in California coastal waters where high PIC levels were found. We demonstrate that the PIC concentration sensor can detect PIC concentration variability from 0.01 to >1 μM in the water column (except in nepheloid layers) and outline engineering needs and progress on its integration with the Carbon Flux Explorer, an autonomous float.« less