Estimates of micro-, nano-, and picoplankton contributions to particle export in the northeast Pacific
- 1Graduate School of Oceanography, University of Rhode Island, Narragansett, RI 02882, USA
- 2Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, East Boothbay, ME 04544, USA
- 3Queens College and Graduate Center, City University of New York, Queens, NY 11367, USA
Abstract. The contributions of micro-, nano-, and picoplankton to particle export were estimated from measurements of size-fractionated particulate 234Th, organic carbon, and phytoplankton indicator pigments obtained during five cruises between 2010 and 2012 along Line P in the subarctic northeast Pacific Ocean. Sinking fluxes of particulate organic carbon (POC) and indicator pigments were calculated from 234Th–238U disequilibria and, during two cruises, measured by a sediment trap at Ocean Station Papa. POC fluxes at 100 m ranged from 0.65 to 7.95 mmol m−2 d−1, similar in magnitude to previous results at Line P. Microplankton pigments dominate indicator pigment fluxes (averaging 69 ± 19% of total pigment flux), while nanoplankton pigments comprised the majority of pigment standing stocks (averaging 64 ± 23% of total pigment standing stocks). Indicator pigment loss rates (the ratio of pigment export flux to pigment standing stocks) point to preferential export of larger microplankton relative to smaller nano- and picoplankton. However, indicator pigments do not quantitatively trace particle export resulting from zooplankton grazing, which may be an important pathway for the export of small phytoplankton. These results have important implications for understanding the magnitude and mechanisms controlling the biological pump at Line P in particular, and more generally in oligotrophic gyres and high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (HNLC) regions where small phytoplankton represent a major component of the autotrophic community.