Revisiting the CO2 "source" problem in upwelling areas – a comparative study on eddy upwellings in the South China Sea
Abstract. The causes for a productive upwelling region to be a source of CO2 are usually referred to the excess CO2 supplied via upwelling of high dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) from deep water. Furthermore, we hypothesize that microbial activity plays a significant role on top of that. To test this hypothesis, multiple biogeochemical parameters were investigated at two cyclonic-eddy-induced upwelling sites, CE1 and CE2, in the western South China Sea. The data showed that upwelling can exert significant influences on biological activities in the euphotic zone and can also impact on particulate organic carbon (POC) export flux depending on upwelling conditions, such as the magnitude, timing, and duration of nutrient input and consequent microbial activities. At CE2, the increase of phytoplankton biomass caused by the upwelled nutrients resulted in increase of POC export flux compared to non-eddy reference sites, while at CE1 the microbial respiration of organic carbon stimulated by the upwelled nutrients significantly contributed to the attenuation of POC export flux. These results suggest that on top of upwelled DIC, microbial activities stimulated by upwelled nutrients and labile organic carbon produced by phytoplankton can play a critical role for an upwelling area to be outgassing or uptaking CO2. We point out that even though an upwelling region is outgassing CO2, carbon sequestration still takes place through the POC-based biological pump as well as the refractory dissolved organic carbon (RDOC)-based microbial carbon pump.