Sinking phytoplankton associated with carbon flux in the Atlantic Ocean
Durkin, Colleen A.
Van Mooy, Benjamin
Dyhrman, Sonya T.
Buesseler, Ken O.
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The composition of sinking particles and the mechanisms leading to their transport ultimately control how much carbon is naturally sequestered in the deep ocean by the “biological pump.” While detrital particles often contain much of the sinking carbon, sinking of intact phytoplankton cells can also contribute to carbon export, which represents a direct flux of carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean by circumventing the surface ocean food web. Phytoplankton that contributed to carbon flux were identified in sinking material collected by short-term sediment trap deployments conducted along a transect off the eastern shore of South America. Particulate organic carbon flux at 125 m depth did not change significantly along the transect. Instead, changes occurred in the composition and association of phytoplankton with detrital particles. The fluxes of diatoms, coccolithophores, dinoflagellates, and nano-sized cells at 125 m were unrelated to the overlying surface population abundances, indicating that functional-group specific transport mechanisms were variable across locations. The dominant export mechanism of phytoplankton at each station was putatively identified by principal component analysis and fell into one of three categories; (1) transport and sinking of individual, viable diatom cells, (2) transport by aggregates and fecal pellets, or (3) enhanced export of coccolithophores through direct settling and/or aggregation
© The Author(s), 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License. The definitive version was published in Limnology and Oceanography 61 (2016): 1172–1187, doi:10.1002/lno.10253.
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