The influence of plankton community structure on sinking velocity and remineralization rate of marine aggregates.

Bach, Lennart T. , Stange, Paul, Taucher, Jan , Achterberg, Eric P. , Algueró‐Muñiz, M., Horn, H., Esposito, Mario and Riebesell, Ulf (2019) The influence of plankton community structure on sinking velocity and remineralization rate of marine aggregates. Open Access Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 33 (8). pp. 971-994. DOI 10.1029/2019GB006256.

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Gravitational sinking of photosynthetically fixed particulate organic carbon (POC) constitutes a key component of the biological carbon pump. The fraction of POC leaving the surface ocean depends on POC sinking velocity (SV) and remineralization rate (Cremin), both of which depend on plankton community structure. However, the key drivers in plankton communities controlling SV and Cremin are poorly constrained. In fall 2014, we conducted a 6 weeks mesocosm experiment in the subtropical NE Atlantic Ocean to study the influence of plankton community structure on SV and Cremin. Oligotrophic conditions prevailed for the first 3 weeks, until nutrient‐rich deep water injected into all mesocosms stimulated diatom blooms. SV declined steadily over the course of the experiment due to decreasing CaCO3 ballast and – according to an optical proxy proposed herein – due to increasing aggregate porosity mostly during an aggregation event after the diatom bloom. Furthermore, SV was positively correlated with the contribution of picophytoplankton to the total phytoplankton biomass. Cremin was highest during a Synechococcus bloom under oligotrophic conditions and in some mesocosms during the diatom bloom after the deep‐water addition while it was particularly low during harmful algal blooms. The temporal changes were considerably larger in Cremin (max. 15‐fold) than in SV (max. 3‐fold). Accordingly, estimated POC transfer efficiency to 1000 m was mainly dependent on how the plankton community structure affected Cremin. Our approach revealed key players and interactions in the plankton food web influencing POC export efficiency thereby improving our mechanistic understanding of the biological carbon pump.

Key points

Sinking velocity was higher during oligotrophy than during blooms which is linked to ballast, porosity, and phytoplankton size structure
Remineralization was highly variable but tended to be higher during Synechococcus or diatom blooms and lower during harmful algal blooms
Plankton community structure had a considerably larger influence on particle remineralization rate than on sinking velocity

Document Type: Article
Keywords: biological pump, carbon export, mesocosm respiration, sinking speed, degradation, RV Hesperides (cruise 29HE20140924)
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-CH Chemical Oceanography
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-BI Biological Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1029/2019GB006256
ISSN: 0886-6236
Related URLs:
Projects: BIOACID
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2019 12:05
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2021 07:28

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