High‐frequency variability of small‐particle carbon export flux in the Northeast Atlantic

Bol, Roséanne; Henson, Stephanie, Anne ORCID:; Rumyantseva, Anna; Briggs, Nathan. 2018 High‐frequency variability of small‐particle carbon export flux in the Northeast Atlantic. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 32 (12). 1803-1814.

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The biological carbon pump exports carbon fixed by photosynthesis out of the surface ocean and transfers it to the deep, mostly in the form of sinking particles. Despite the importance of the pump in regulating the air‐sea CO2 balance, the magnitude of global carbon export remains unclear, as do its controlling mechanisms. A possible sinking flux of carbon to the mesopelagic zone may be via the mixed‐layer pump: a seasonal net detrainment of particulate organic carbon (POC)‐rich surface waters, caused by sequential deepening and shoaling of the mixed layer. In this study, we present a full year of daily small‐particle POC concentrations derived from glider optical backscatter data, to study export variability at the Porcupine Abyssal Plain (PAP) sustained observatory in the Northeast Atlantic. We observe a strong seasonality in small‐particle transfer efficiency, with a maximum in winter and early spring. By calculating daily POC export driven by mixed‐layer variations, we find that the mixed‐layer pump supplies an annual flux of at least 3.0 ± 0.9 g POC·m−2·year−1 to the mesopelagic zone, contributing between 5% and 25% of the total annual export flux and likely contributing to closing a gap in the mesopelagic carbon budget found by other studies. These are, to our best knowledge, the first high‐frequency observations of export variability over the course of a full year. Our results support the deployment of bio‐optical sensors on gliders to improve our understanding of the ocean carbon cycle on temporal scales from daily to annual.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0886-6236
Date made live: 23 Jan 2019 10:50 +0 (UTC)

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