skip to main content


Title: On the Origins of Open Ocean Oxygen Minimum Zones
Abstract

Recent work suggests that Oxygen Minimum Zones (OMZs) are sustained by the supply of oxygen‐poor waters rather than the export of organic matter from the local surface layer and its subsequent remineralization inside OMZs. However, the mechanisms that form and maintain OMZs are not well constrained, such as the origin of the oxygen that oxygenates OMZs, and the locations where oxygen consumption occurs. Here we use an observation‐based transport matrix to determine the origins of open ocean OMZs in terms of (a) OMZ volume, (b) oxygen that survives remineralization and oxygenates OMZs, and (c) oxygen utilization in the interior ocean that contributes to the oxygen‐deficit of OMZs. We also determine where the utilization of oxygen occurs along the pathways that ventilate the OMZs. Our results show that about half of the volume of OMZ waters originate in high‐latitude regions, but most of their oxygen is utilized for remineralization before they reach OMZs. Instead, OMZs are mostly oxygenated by tropical, subtropical and intermediate waters formed in nearby regions. More than half of the utilization of oxygen occurs in the tropics and subtropics, while less than a third occurs within the OMZs themselves. We therefore suggest that, in steady‐state, OMZs are primarily set by ocean circulation pathways that high‐latitude deep and old water upwards, with relatively low oxygen content.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10445386
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Volume:
128
Issue:
8
ISSN:
2169-9275
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Oceanic emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) account for roughly one‐third of all natural sources to the atmosphere. Hot‐spots of N2O outgassing occur over oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), where the presence of steep oxygen gradients surrounding anoxic waters leads to enhanced N2O production from both nitrification and denitrification. However, the relative contributions from these pathways to N2O production and outgassing in these regions remains poorly constrained, in part due to shared intermediary nitrogen tracers, and the tight coupling of denitrification sources and sinks. To shed light on this problem, we embed a new, mechanistic model of the OMZ nitrogen cycle within a three‐dimensional eddy‐resolving physical‐biogeochemical model of the Eastern Tropical South Pacific (ETSP), tracking contributions from remote advection, atmospheric exchange, and local nitrification and denitrification. The model indicates that net N2O production from denitrification is approximately one order of magnitude greater than nitrification within the ETSP OMZ. However, only ∼32% of denitrification‐derived N2O production ultimately outgasses to the atmosphere in this region (contributing ∼36% of the air‐sea N2O flux on an annual basis), while the remaining is exported out of the domain. Instead, remotely produced N2O advected into the OMZ region accounts for roughly half (∼57%) of the total N2O outgassing, with smaller contributions from nitrification (∼7%). Our results suggests that, together with enhanced production by denitrification, upwelling of remotely derived N2O contributes the most to N2O outgassing over the ETSP OMZ.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract. Nitrogen (N) plays a central role in marine biogeochemistry by limiting biological productivity in the surface ocean; influencing the cycles of other nutrients, carbon, and oxygen; and controlling oceanic emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O) to the atmosphere. Multiple chemical forms of N are linked together in a dynamic N cycle that is especially active in oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), where high organic matter remineralization and low oxygen concentrations fuel aerobic and anaerobic N transformations. Biogeochemical models used to understand the oceanic N cycle and project its change often employ simple parameterizations of the network of N transformations and omit key intermediary tracers such as nitrite (NO2-) and N2O. Here we present a new model of the oceanic N cycle (Nitrogen cycling in Oxygen Minimum Zones, or NitrOMZ) that resolves N transformation occurring within OMZs and their sensitivity to environmental drivers. The model is designed to be easily coupled to current ocean biogeochemical models by representing the major forms of N as prognostic tracers and parameterizing their transformations as a function of seawater chemistry and organic matter remineralization, with minimal interference in other elemental cycles. We describe the model rationale, formulation, and numerical implementation in a one-dimensional representation of the water column that reproduces typical OMZ conditions. We further detail the optimization of uncertain model parameters against observations from the eastern tropical South Pacific OMZ and evaluate the model's ability to reproduce observed profiles of N tracers and transformation rates in this region. We conclude by describing the model's sensitivity to parameter choices and environmental factors and discussing the model's suitability for ocean biogeochemical studies. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract. Cobalt is the scarcest of metallic micronutrients and displays a complex biogeochemical cycle. This study examines the distribution, chemical speciation, and biogeochemistry of dissolved cobalt during the US North Atlantic GEOTRACES transect expeditions (GA03/3_e), which took place in the fall of 2010 and 2011. Two major subsurface sources of cobalt to the North Atlantic were identified. The more prominent of the two was a large plume of cobalt emanating from the African coast off the eastern tropical North Atlantic coincident with the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) likely due to reductive dissolution, biouptake and remineralization, and aeolian dust deposition. The occurrence of this plume in an OMZ with oxygen above suboxic levels implies a high threshold for persistence of dissolved cobalt plumes. The other major subsurface source came from Upper Labrador Seawater, which may carry high cobalt concentrations due to the interaction of this water mass with resuspended sediment at the western margin or from transport further upstream. Minor sources of cobalt came from dust, coastal surface waters and hydrothermal systems along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The full depth section of cobalt chemical speciation revealed near-complete complexation in surface waters, even within regions of high dust deposition. However, labile cobalt observed below the euphotic zone demonstrated that strong cobalt-binding ligands were not present in excess of the total cobalt concentration there, implying that mesopelagic labile cobalt was sourced from the remineralization of sinking organic matter. In the upper water column, correlations were observed between total cobalt and phosphate, and between labile cobalt and phosphate, demonstrating a strong biological influence on cobalt cycling. Along the western margin off the North American coast, this correlation with phosphate was no longer observed and instead a relationship between cobalt and salinity was observed, reflecting the importance of coastal input processes on cobalt distributions. In deep waters, both total and labile cobalt concentrations were lower than in intermediate depth waters, demonstrating that scavenging may remove labile cobalt from the water column. Total and labile cobalt distributions were also compared to a previously published South Atlantic GEOTRACES-compliant zonal transect (CoFeMUG, GAc01) to discern regional biogeochemical differences. Together, these Atlantic sectional studies highlight the dynamic ecological stoichiometry of total and labile cobalt. As increasing anthropogenic use and subsequent release of cobalt poses the potential to overpower natural cobalt signals in the oceans, it is more important than ever to establish a baseline understanding of cobalt distributions in the ocean.

     
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are unique marine regions where broad redox gradients stimulate biogeochemical cycles. Despite the important and unique role of OMZ microbes in these cycles, they are less characterized than microbes from the oxic ocean. Here we recovered 39 high- and medium-quality metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) from the Eastern Tropical South Pacific OMZ. More than half of these MAGs were not represented at the species level among 2631 MAGs from global marine datasets. OMZ MAGs were dominated by denitrifiers catalyzing nitrogen loss and especially MAGs with partial denitrification metabolism. A novel bacterial genome with nitrate-reducing potential could only be assigned to the phylum level. A Marine-Group II archaeon was found to be a versatile denitrifier, with the potential capability to respire multiple nitrogen compounds including N 2 O. The newly discovered denitrifying MAGs will improve our understanding of microbial adaptation strategies and the evolution of denitrification in the tree of life. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract

    Fixed nitrogen limits primary productivity in most areas of the surface ocean. Nitrite oxidation is the main source of nitrate, the most abundant form of inorganic fixed nitrogen. Even though known as an aerobic process, nitrite oxidation is not always stimulated by increased oxygen concentration, and nitrite oxidation occurs in layers of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) where oxygen is not detectable. Nitrite‐oxidizing bacteria, known since their original isolation as aerobes, were also detected in these layers. Whether and how nitrite oxidation is occurring in the anoxic seawater is debated. Here, we reassess recent advances in marine nitrite oxidation in OMZ regions using previous work and new data sets we collected in two Pacific OMZs. We analyze the complex relationship between nitrite oxidation and oxygen. We discuss potential mechanisms explaining nitrite oxidation in different layers of OMZs based on recent findings and propose future directions to resolve the controversial question of apparently anaerobic nitrite oxidation in anoxic layers.

     
    more » « less