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Title: Variable particle size distributions reduce the sensitivity of global export flux to climate change
Abstract. Recent earth system models predict a 10 %–20 % decrease in particulate organic carbon export from the surface ocean by the end of the21st century due to global climate change. This decline is mainly caused by increased stratification of the upper ocean, resulting in reducedshallow subsurface nutrient concentrations and a slower supply of nutrients to the surface euphotic zone in low latitudes. These predictions,however, do not typically account for associated changes in remineralization depths driven by sinking-particle size. Here we combinesatellite-derived export and particle size maps with a simple 3-D global biogeochemical model that resolves dynamic particle size distributions toinvestigate how shifts in particle size may buffer or amplify predicted changes in surface nutrient supply and therefore export production. We showthat higher export rates are empirically correlated with larger sinking particles and presumably larger phytoplankton, particularly in tropical andsubtropical regions. Incorporating these empirical relationships into our global model shows that as circulation slows, a decrease in export isassociated with a shift towards smaller particles, which sink more slowly and are thus remineralized shallower. This shift towards shallowerremineralization in turn leads to greater recycling of nutrients in the upper water column and thus faster nutrient recirculation into the euphoticzone. The end result is a boost in productivity and export that counteracts the initial circulation-driven decreases. This negative feedbackmechanism (termed the particle-size–remineralization feedback) slows export decline over the next century by ∼ 14 % globally (from −0.29to −0.25 GtC yr−1) and by ∼ 20 % in the tropical and subtropical oceans, where export decreases are currently predicted tobe greatest. Our findings suggest that to more accurately predict changes in biological pump strength under a warming climate, earth system modelsshould include dynamic particle-size-dependent remineralization depths.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1635414
NSF-PAR ID:
10316594
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Biogeosciences
Volume:
18
Issue:
1
ISSN:
1726-4189
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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