Processes in the surface ocean regulate dissolved organic matter distributions in the deep

Bercovici, Sarah K.; Dittmar, Thorsten; Niggemann, Jutta. 2023 Processes in the surface ocean regulate dissolved organic matter distributions in the deep. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 37 (12).

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Marine dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a major global carbon pool, consisting of thousands of compounds with distinct lifetimes. While marine DOM persists for millennia, its molecular and isotopic composition imply that it is dynamic on shorter timescales. To determine the extent to which DOM deviates from conservative water mass mixing, we conducted a two-endmember mixing analysis on dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration and DOM molecular composition in the Atlantic and Pacific. Endmembers were the deep water masses near their formation sites. For DOM composition, we considered 6118 molecular formulae (MF) identified via Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry in solid-phase extracts (SPE) of 837 samples. Bulk DOC and SPE-DOC concentrations behaved conservatively in both basins and ≥70% of the MF (14–20 μM SPE-DOC) mixed conservatively. However, a small fraction (10%–20%) of the MF (<3 μM SPE-DOC) were added or removed during mixing. These MF were more reduced and oxidized, respectively, than the conservative fraction. There were also MF absent from the endmembers; these accounted for ≤1 μM of SPE-DOC and positively correlated with DOM lability. Based on their distribution across the two basins, we conclude that the conserved MF are formed in the surface subtropical ocean and modified in overturning areas. In the deep ocean, however, these MF are solely controlled by mixing. This finding contrasts with the current paradigm of slow, continuous degradation of recalcitrant DOM in the deep ocean. Our analysis illustrates the importance of the surface ocean in controlling DOM cycling in the deep.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0886-6236
Additional Keywords: dissolved organic matter, dissolved organic carbon, thermohaline circulation, water mass mixing, DOM reactivity/dynamics, molecular composition
Date made live: 19 Dec 2023 22:55 +0 (UTC)

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