Articles | Volume 12, issue 1
Research article
12 Jan 2015
Research article |  | 12 Jan 2015

Variable C : N : P stoichiometry of dissolved organic matter cycling in the Community Earth System Model

R. T. Letscher, J. K. Moore, Y.-C. Teng, and F. Primeau

Abstract. Dissolved organic matter (DOM) plays an important role in the ocean's biological carbon pump by providing an advective/mixing pathway for ~ 20% of export production. DOM is known to have a stoichiometry depleted in nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) compared to the particulate organic matter pool, a fact that is often omitted from biogeochemical ocean general circulation models. However the variable C : N : P stoichiometry of DOM becomes important when quantifying carbon export from the upper ocean and linking the nutrient cycles of N and P with that of carbon. Here we utilize recent advances in DOM observational data coverage and offline tracer-modeling techniques to objectively constrain the variable production and remineralization rates of the DOM C : N : P pools in a simple biogeochemical-ocean model of DOM cycling. The optimized DOM cycling parameters are then incorporated within the Biogeochemical Elemental Cycling (BEC) component of the Community Earth System Model (CESM) and validated against the compilation of marine DOM observations. The optimized BEC simulation including variable DOM C : N : P cycling was found to better reproduce the observed DOM spatial gradients than simulations that used the canonical Redfield ratio. Global annual average export of dissolved organic C, N, and P below 100 m was found to be 2.28 Pg C yr−1 (143 Tmol C yr−1, 16.4 Tmol N yr−1, and 1 Tmol P yr−1, respectively, with an average export C : N : P stoichiometry of 225 : 19 : 1 for the semilabile (degradable) DOM pool. Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export contributed ~ 25% of the combined organic C export to depths greater than 100 m.

Short summary
Marine DOM is known to exhibit stoichiometry depleted in N and P compared with POM, suggesting variable production and remineralization stoichiometry for C, N, and P within marine DOM cycling. We utilize marine DOM observations and an inverse tracer modeling framework to optimize DOM cycling parameters for the BEC biogeochemistry ocean model of the CESM, finding a variable stoichiometry with faster turnover of P > N > C superior to the commonly assumed Redfield stoichiometry for marine DOM.
Final-revised paper