Material supply to the abyssal seafloor in the northeast Atlantic

Lampitt, R.S.; Bett, B.J.; Kiriakoulakis, K.; Popova, E.E.; Ragueneau, O.; Vangriesheim, A.; Wolff, G.A.. 2001 Material supply to the abyssal seafloor in the northeast Atlantic. Progress in Oceanography, 50 (1-4). 27-63.

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Downward particle flux was measured using sediment traps at various depths over the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (water depth ~4850 m) for prolonged periods from 1989 to 1999. A strong seasonal pattern of flux was evident reaching a maximum in mid-summer. The composition of the material changed with depth, reflecting the processes of remineralisation and dissolution as the material sank through the water column. However, there was surprisingly little seasonal variation in its composition to reflect changes in the biology of the euphotic zone. Currents at the site have a strong tidal component with speeds almost always less than 15 cm/sec. In the deeper part of the water column they tend to be northerly in direction, when averaged over periods of several months. A model of upper ocean biogeochemistry forced by meteorology was run for the decade in order to provide an estimate of flux at 3000 m depth. Agreement with measured organic carbon flux is good, both in terms of the timings of the annual peaks and in the integrated annual flux. Interannual variations in the integrated flux are of similar magnitude for both the model output and sediment trap measurements, but there is no significant relationship between these two sets of estimates. No long-term trend in flux is evident, either from the model, or from the measurements. During two spring/summer periods, the marine snow concentration in the water column was assessed by time-lapse photography and showed a strong peak at the start of the downward pulse of material at 3000 m. This emphasises the importance of large particles during periods of maximum flux and at the start of flux peaks. Time lapse photographs of the seabed show a seasonal cycle of coverage of phytodetrital material, in agreement with the model output both in terms of timing and magnitude of coverage prior to 1996. However, after a change in the structure of the benthic community in 1996 no phytodetritus was evident on the seabed. The model output shows only a single peak in flux each year, whereas the measured data usually indicated a double peak. It is concluded that the observed double peak may be a reflection of lowered sediment trap efficiency when flux is very high and is dominated by large marine snow particles. Resuspension into the trap 100 m above the seabed, when compared to the primary flux at 3000 m depth (1800 mab) was lower during periods of high primary flux probably because of a reduction in the height of resuspension when the material is fresh. At 2 mab, the picture is more complex with resuspension being enhanced during the periods of higher flux in 1997, which is consistent with this hypothesis. However there was rather little relationship to flux at 3000 m in 1998. At 3000 m depth, the Flux Stability Index (FSI), which provides a measure of the constancy of the seasonal cycle of flux, exhibited an inverse relationship with flux, such that the highest flux of organic carbon was recorded during the year with the greatest seasonal variation.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0079-6611
Additional Keywords: particulate flux, northeast atlantic ocean, seasonality
Date made live: 04 Aug 2004 +0 (UTC)

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