Spatial distribution of vertical carbon fluxes on the Agulhas Bank and its possible implication for the benthic nepheloid layer

Malongweni, Nwabisa V.; Rocke, Emma; Roberts, Michael J.; Giering, Sarah L.C. ORCID: 2023 Spatial distribution of vertical carbon fluxes on the Agulhas Bank and its possible implication for the benthic nepheloid layer. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 212, 105334.

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Vertical particle fluxes of particulate organic carbon (POC), chlorophyll a (Chl a) and biogenic silica (bSi) were measured on the productive shelf of southern Africa, the Agulhas Bank (AB), in March 2019. Sinking particulate material in the form of aggregates is hypothesized to form the benthic nepheloid layer (BNL) which is a turbid layer found near the seabed. This layer is known to affect the spawning success of squid as it is linked to high turbidity which reduces visibility during mating. To determine the distribution of fluxes and particle composition in the AB, we collected water samples below the surface mixed layer (‘export’) and near the seabed (‘bottom’) using a Marine Snow Catcher. POC export fluxes were significantly higher inshore than offshore (mean ± SD: 944.6 ± 302.0 & 461.1 ± 162.1 mg POC m−2 d−1, respectively). There was no significant difference in the cross-shelf distribution of Chl a and bSi export fluxes, however the inshore fluxes of Chl a and bSi were higher than offshore, suggesting a link between export fluxes and sinking organic matter derived from the more productive inshore surface waters. All bottom fluxes were significantly higher inshore, suggesting the contribution of sinking organic particles and resuspended bottom sediments to inshore fluxes. POC export efficiency (ratio of exported POC flux relative to net primary production (NPP)) was higher on the AB (range: 0.58–9.56) compared to the global shelf seas ratio of 0.18 and not related to NPP, suggesting an export of standing stock of carbon biomass, likely produced before the cruise. Transfer efficiency (i.e., the amount of exported flux that reaches the bottom) was also high (max: 0.99, 1.0 and 33.04 for POC, Chl a and bSi, respectively) but did not show a clear spatial pattern. We observed a significant positive correlation between bottom turbidity (a proxy for BNL presence) and export POC flux, suggesting the possibility that sinking organic matter is contributing to BNL formation on the AB.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 09670645
Date made live: 12 Oct 2023 13:21 +0 (UTC)

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