Phytoplankton calcifiers control nitrate cycling and the pace of transition in warming icehouse and cooling greenhouse climates.

Kvale, Karin Frances , Turner, Katherine, Landolfi, Angela and Meissner, Katrin (2019) Phytoplankton calcifiers control nitrate cycling and the pace of transition in warming icehouse and cooling greenhouse climates. Open Access Biogeosciences (BG), 16 (5). pp. 1019-1034. DOI 10.5194/bg-16-1019-2019.

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Abstract

Phytoplankton calcifiers contribute to global carbon cycling through their dual formation of calcium carbonate and particulate organic carbon (POC). The carbonate might provide an efficient export pathway for the associated POC to the deep ocean, reducing the particles' exposure to biological degradation in the upper ocean and increasing the particle settling rate. Previous work has suggested ballasting of POC by carbonate might increase in a warming climate, in spite of increasing carbonate dissolution rates, because calcifiers benefit from the widespread nutrient limitation arising from stratification. We compare the biogeochemical responses of three models containing (1) a single mixed phytoplankton class, (2) additional explicit small phytoplankton and calcifiers, and (3) additional explicit small phytoplankton and calcifiers with a prognostic carbonate ballast model, to two rapid changes in atmospheric CO2. The first CO2 scenario represents a rapid (151-year) transition from a stable icehouse climate (283.9 ppm) into a greenhouse climate (1263 ppm); the second represents a symmetric rapid transition from a stable greenhouse climate into an icehouse climate. We identify a slope change in the global net primary production response with a transition point at about 3.5 ∘C global mean sea surface temperature change in all models, driven by a combination of physical and biological changes. We also find that in both warming and cooling scenarios, the application of a prognostic carbonate ballast model moderates changes in carbon export production, suboxic volume, and nitrate sources and sinks, reducing the long-term model response to about one-third that of the calcifier model without ballast. Explicit small phytoplankton and calcifiers, and carbonate ballasting, increase the physical separation of nitrate sources and sinks through a combination of phytoplankton competition and lengthened remineralization profile, resulting in a significantly higher global nitrate inventory in this model compared to the single phytoplankton type model (15 % and 32 % higher for icehouse and greenhouse climates). Higher nitrate inventory alleviates nitrate limitation, increasing phytoplankton sensitivity to changes in physical limitation factors (light and temperature). This larger sensitivity to physical forcing produces stronger shifts in ocean phosphate storage between icehouse and greenhouse climates. The greenhouse climate is found to hold phosphate and nitrate deeper in the ocean, despite a shorter remineralization length scale than the icehouse climate, because of the longer residence times of the deep water masses. We conclude the global biogeochemical impact of calcifiers extends beyond their role in global carbon cycling, and that the ecological composition of the global ocean can affect how ocean biogeochemistry responds to climate forcing.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: coccolithophores, ballast, greenhouse, icehouse, nitrate, suboxia
Research affiliation: OceanRep > SFB 754 > A2
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-BM Biogeochemical Modeling
OceanRep > SFB 754 > B1
OceanRep > SFB 754
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.5194/bg-16-1019-2019
ISSN: 1726-4170
Related URLs:
Projects: SFB754
Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2018 14:05
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2019 08:49
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/44743

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