skip to main content


Title: Particle cycling rates at Station P as estimated from the inversion of POC concentration data
Particle cycling rates in marine systems are difficult to measure directly, but of great interest in understanding how carbon and other elements are distributed throughout the ocean. Here, rates of particle production, aggregation, disaggregation, sinking, remineralization, and transport mediated by zooplankton diel vertical migration were estimated from size-fractionated measurements of particulate organic carbon (POC) concentration collected during the NASA EXport Processes in the Ocean from RemoTe Sensing (EXPORTS) cruise at Station P in summer 2018. POC data were combined with a particle cycling model using an inverse method. Our estimates of the total POC settling flux throughout the water column are consistent with those derived from thorium-234 disequilibrium and sediment traps. A budget for POC in two size fractions, small (1–51 µm) and large (> 51 µm), was produced for both the euphotic zone (0–100 m) and the upper mesopelagic zone (100–500 m). We estimated that POC export at the base of the euphotic zone was 2.2 ± 0.8 mmol m−2 d−1, and that both small and large particles contributed considerably to the total export flux along the water column. The model results indicated that throughout the upper 500 m, remineralization leads to a larger loss of small POC than does aggregation, whereas disaggregation results in a larger loss of large POC than does remineralization. Of the processes explicitly represented in the model, zooplankton diel vertical migration is a larger source of large POC to the upper mesopelagic zone than the convergence of large POC due to particle sinking. Positive model residuals reveal an even larger unidentified source of large POC in the upper mesopelagic zone. Overall, our posterior estimates of particle cycling rate constants do not deviate much from values reported in the literature, i.e., size-fractionated POC concentration data collected at Station P are largely consistent with prior estimates given their uncertainties. Our budget estimates should provide a useful framework for the interpretation of process-specific observations obtained by various research groups in EXPORTS. Applying our inverse method to other systems could provide insight into how different biogeochemical processes affect the cycling of POC in the upper water column.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1829614
NSF-PAR ID:
10442801
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene
Volume:
10
Issue:
1
ISSN:
2325-1026
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Understanding particle cycling processes in the ocean is critical for predicting the response of the biological carbon pump to external perturbations. Here, measurements of particulate organic carbon (POC) concentration in two size fractions (1–51 and >51 μm) from GEOTRACES Pacific meridional transect GP15 are combined with a POC cycling model to estimate rates of POC production, (dis)aggregation, sinking, remineralization, and vertical transport mediated by migrating zooplankton, in the euphotic zone (EZ) and upper mesopelagic zone (UMZ) of distinct environments. We find coherent variations in POC cycling parameters and fluxes throughout the transect. Thus, the settling speed of POC in the >51 μm fraction increased with depth in the UMZ, presumably due to higher particle densities at depth. The settling flux of total POC (>1 μm) out of the EZ was positively correlated with primary production integrated over the EZ; the highest export occurred in the subarctic gyre while the lowest occurred in the subtropical gyres. The ratio of POC settling flux to integrated primary production was low (<5%) along GP15, which suggests an efficient recycling of POC in the EZ in all trophic regimes. Specific rates of POC remineralization did not show clear variations with temperature or dissolved oxygen concentration, that is, POC recycling was apparently controlled by other factors such as microbial colonization and substrate lability. Particle cohesiveness, as approximated by the second‐order rate constant for particle aggregation, was negatively correlated with trophic regime: particles appeared more cohesive in low‐productivity regions than in high‐productivity regions.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Particulate organic matter settling out of the euphotic zone is a major sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide and serves as a primary food source to mesopelagic food webs. Degradation of this organic matter encompasses a suite of mechanisms that attenuate flux, including heterotrophic metabolic processes of microbes and metazoans. The relative contributions of microbial and metazoan heterotrophy to flux attenuation, however, have been difficult to determine. We present results of compound specific nitrogen isotope analysis of amino acids of sinking particles from sediment traps and size‐fractionated particles from in situ filtration between the surface and 500 m at Ocean Station Papa, collected during NASA EXPORTS (EXport Processes in the Ocean from RemoTe Sensing). With increasing depth, we observe: (1) that, based on theδ15N values of threonine, fecal pellets dominate the sinking particle flux and that attenuation of downward particle flux occurs largely via disaggregation in the upper mesopelagic; (2) an increasing trophic position of particles in the upper water column, reflecting increasing heterotrophic contributions to the nitrogen pool and the loss of particles via remineralization; and (3) increasingδ15N values of source amino acids in submicron and small (1–6μm) particles, reflecting microbial particle solubilization. We further employ a Bayesian mixing model to estimate the relative proportions of fecal pellets, phytodetritus, and microbially degraded material in particles and compare these results and our interpretations of flux attenuation mechanisms to other, independent methods used during EXPORTS.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The transfer of photosynthetically produced organic carbon from surface to mesopelagic waters draws carbon dioxide from the atmosphere1. However, current observation-based estimates disagree on the strength of this biological carbon pump (BCP)2. Earth system models (ESMs) also exhibit a large spread of BCP estimates, indicating limited representations of the known carbon export pathways3. Here we use several decades of hydrographic observations to produce a top-down estimate of the strength of the BCP with an inverse biogeochemical model that implicitly accounts for all known export pathways. Our estimate of total organic carbon (TOC) export at 73.4 m (model euphotic zone depth) is 15.00 ± 1.12 Pg C year−1, with only two-thirds reaching 100 m depth owing to rapid remineralization of organic matter in the upper water column. Partitioned by sequestration time below the euphotic zone,τ, the globally integrated organic carbon production rate withτ > 3 months is 11.09 ± 1.02 Pg C year−1, dropping to 8.25 ± 0.30 Pg C year−1forτ > 1 year, with 81% contributed by the non-advective-diffusive vertical flux owing to sinking particles and vertically migrating zooplankton. Nevertheless, export of organic carbon by mixing and other fluid transport of dissolved matter and suspended particles remains regionally important for meeting the respiratory carbon demand. Furthermore, the temperature dependence of the sequestration efficiency inferred from our inversion suggests that future global warming may intensify the recycling of organic matter in the upper ocean, potentially weakening the BCP.

     
    more » « less
  4. Midwater zooplankton are major agents of biogeochemical transformation in the open ocean; however their characteristics and activity remain poorly known. Here we evaluate midwater zooplankton biomass, amino acid (AA)-specific stable isotope composition (δ15N values) using compound-specific isotope analysis of amino acids (CSIA-AA), trophic position, and elemental composition in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG). We focus on zooplankton collected in the winter, spring, and summer to evaluate midwater trophic dynamics over a seasonal cycle. For the first time we find that midwater zooplankton respond strongly to seasonal changes in production and export in the NPSG. In summer, when export from the euphotic zone is elevated and this ‘summer pulse’ material is transported rapidly to depth, CSIA-AA indicates that large particles (> 53 μm) dominate the food web base for zooplankton throughout the midwaters, and to a large extent even into the upper bathypelagic zone. In winter, when export is low, zooplankton in the mid-mesopelagic zone continue to rely on large particle basal resources, but resident zooplankton in the lower mesopelagic and upper bathypelagic zones switch to include smaller particles (0.7–53 μm) in their food web base, or even a subset of the small particle pool. Midwater zooplankton migration patterns also vary with season, with migrants distributed more evenly at night through the euphotic zone in summer as compared to being more compressed in the upper mixed layer in winter. Deeper zooplankton migration within the mesopelagic zone is also reduced in late summer, likely due to the increased magnitude of large particle material available at depth during this season. Our observed seasonal change in activity and trophic dynamics drives modestly greater biomass in summer than winter through the mesopelagic zone. In contrast midwater zooplankton carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) composition does not change with season. Instead we find increasing C:N, C:P, and N:P ratios with greater depths, likely due to decreases in proteinaceous structures and organic P compounds and increases in storage lipids with depth. Our study highlights the importance and diversity of feeding strategies for small zooplankton in NPSG midwaters. Many small zooplankton, such as oncaeid and oithonid copepods, are able to access small particle resources at depth and may be an important trophic link between the microbial loop and deep dwelling micronekton species that also rely on small particle-based food webs. Our observed midwater zooplankton trophic response to export-driven variation in the particle field at depth has important implications for midwater metabolism and the export of C to the deep sea. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    A considerable amount of particulate carbon produced by oceanic photosynthesis is exported to the deep-sea by the “gravitational pump” (~6.8 to 7.7 Pg C/year), sequestering it from the atmosphere for centuries. How particulate organic carbon (POC) is transformed during export to the deep sea however is not well understood. Here, we report that dominant suspended prokaryotes also found in sinking particles serve as informative tracers of particle export processes. In a three-year time series from oceanographic campaigns in the Pacific Ocean, upper water column relative abundances of suspended prokaryotes entrained in sinking particles decreased exponentially from depths of 75 to 250 m, conforming to known depth-attenuation patterns of carbon, energy, and mass fluxes in the epipelagic zone. Below ~250 m however, the relative abundance of suspended prokaryotes entrained in sinking particles increased with depth. These results indicate that microbial entrainment, colonization, and sinking particle formation are elevated at mesopelagic and bathypelagic depths. Comparison of suspended and sinking particle-associated microbes provides information about the depth-variability of POC export and biotic processes, that is not evident from biogeochemical data alone.

     
    more » « less