Early spring mesopelagic carbon remineralization and transfer efficiency in the naturally iron-fertilized Kerguelen area
Abstract. We report on the zonal variability of mesopelagic particulate organic carbon remineralization and deep carbon transfer potential during the Kerguelen Ocean and Plateau compared Study 2 expedition (KEOPS 2; October–November 2011) in an area of the polar front supporting recurrent massive blooms from natural Fe fertilization. Mesopelagic carbon remineralization (MR) was assessed using the excess, non-lithogenic particulate barium (Baxs) inventories in mesopelagic waters and compared with bacterial production (BP), surface primary production (PP) and export production (EP). Results for this early season study are compared with the results obtained during a previous study (2005; KEOPS 1) for the same area at a later stage of the phytoplankton bloom. Our results reveal the patchiness of the seasonal advancement and of the establishment of remineralization processes between the plateau (A3) and polar front sites during KEOPS 2. For the Kerguelen plateau (A3 site) we observe a similar functioning of the mesopelagic ecosystem during both seasons (spring and summer), with low and rather stable remineralization fluxes in the mesopelagic column (150–400 m). The shallow water column (~500 m), the lateral advection, the zooplankton grazing pressure and the pulsed nature of the particulate organic carbon (POC) transfer at A3 seem to drive the extent of MR processes on the plateau. For deeper stations (>2000 m) located on the margin, inside a polar front meander, as well as in the vicinity of the polar front, east of Kerguelen, remineralization in the upper 400 m in general represents a larger part of surface carbon export. However, when considering the upper 800 m, in some cases, the entire flux of exported carbon is remineralized. In the polar front meander, where successive stations form a time series, two successive events of particle transfer were evidenced by remineralization rates: a first mesopelagic and deep transfer from a past bloom before the cruise, and a second transfer expanding at mesopelagic layers during the cruise. Regarding the deep carbon transfer efficiency, it appeared that above the plateau (A3 site) the mesopelagic remineralization was not a major barrier to the transfer of organic matter to the seafloor (close to 500 m). There, the efficiency of carbon transfer to the bottom waters (>400 m) as assessed by PP, EP and MR fluxes comparisons reached up to 87% of the carbon exported from the upper 150 m. In contrast, at the deeper locations, mesopelagic remineralization clearly limited the transfer of carbon to depths of >400 m. For sites at the margin of the plateau (station E-4W) and the polar front (station F-L), mesopelagic remineralization even exceeded upper 150 m export, resulting in a zero transfer efficiency to depths >800 m. In the polar front meander (time series), the capacity of the meander to transfer carbon to depth >800 m was highly variable (0 to 73%). The highest carbon transfer efficiencies in the meander are furthermore coupled to intense and complete deep (>800 m) remineralization, resulting again in a near-zero, deep (>2000 m) carbon sequestration efficiency there.