Articles | Volume 10, issue 10
Research article
09 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 09 Oct 2013

Riverine influence on the tropical Atlantic Ocean biogeochemistry

L. C. da Cunha and E. T. Buitenhuis

Abstract. We assess the role of riverine inputs of N, Si, Fe, organic and inorganic C in the tropical Atlantic Ocean using a global ocean biogeochemistry model. We use a standard model scenario and three sensitivity tests to investigate the role of total river nutrient and carbon inputs, as well as the western (South American) and eastern (African) river inputs on the tropical Atlantic Ocean biogeochemistry, between 20° S–20° N and 70° W–20° E. Increased nutrient availability from river inputs in this area (compared to a sensitivity scenario without river nutrient inputs, NO_RIVER) leads to an increase in primary production (PP) and export production (EP), mainly in the coastal ocean area (modeled ocean area with bathymetry <200 m). Model results suggest an enhanced N-fixation by diazotrophs on the tropical Atlantic mainly in open ocean areas. The increased rate of N-fixation in the TODAY scenario is proportional to the increase in PP and EP relative to the NO_RIVER scenario, and may support up to 14% of the coastal ocean export production. Inputs from South American rivers have an impact in coastal PP and EP two times higher than those from African rivers. On the other hand, results suggest that the contribution of African and South American rivers to the total increase in open ocean PP and EP is similar. Considering the amount of delivered nutrients (2–3 times less nutrients and carbon inputs by African rivers) one concludes that African riverine inputs may have a larger impact on the whole tropical Atlantic Ocean biogeochemistry. This is probably due to a combination of nutrient trapping in upwelling areas off the large rivers' outflows and shallow mixed layers in the eastern tropical Atlantic, concomitantly to the differences in delivered nutrient ratios leading to alleviation in limitation conditions, mainly for diatoms. When river inputs are added to the model, we estimate a modest decrease in open ocean sea-air CO2 fluxes (−5.2 Tg C a−1) and an increase in coastal ocean CO2 fluxes, mainly provoked by the remineralization of riverine organic matter delivered by the South American rivers.

Final-revised paper