Articles | Volume 12, issue 23
Research article
07 Dec 2015
Research article |  | 07 Dec 2015

New insights into the organic carbon export in the Mediterranean Sea from 3-D modeling

A. Guyennon, M. Baklouti, F. Diaz, J. Palmieri, J. Beuvier, C. Lebaupin-Brossier, T. Arsouze, K. Béranger, J.-C. Dutay, and T. Moutin

Abstract. The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most oligotrophic regions of the oceans, and nutrients have been shown to limit both phytoplankton and bacterial activities, resulting in a potential major role of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export in the biological pump. Strong DOC accumulation in surface waters is already well documented, though measurements of DOC stocks and export flux are still sparse and associated with major uncertainties. This study provides the first basin-scale overview and analysis of organic carbon stocks and export fluxes in the Mediterranean Sea through a modeling approach based on a coupled model combining a mechanistic biogeochemical model (Eco3M-MED) and a high-resolution (eddy-resolving) hydrodynamic simulation (NEMO-MED12). The model is shown to reproduce the main spatial and seasonal biogeochemical characteristics of the Mediterranean Sea. Model estimations of carbon export are also of the same order of magnitude as estimations from in situ observations, and their respective spatial patterns are mutually consistent. Strong differences between the western and eastern basins are evidenced by the model for organic carbon export. Though less oligotrophic than the eastern basin, the western basin only supports 39 % of organic carbon (particulate and dissolved) export. Another major result is that except for the Alboran Sea, the DOC contribution to organic carbon export is higher than that of particulate organic carbon (POC) throughout the Mediterranean Sea, especially in the eastern basin. This paper also investigates the seasonality of DOC and POC exports as well as the differences in the processes involved in DOC and POC exports in light of intracellular quotas. Finally, according to the model, strong phosphate limitation of both bacteria and phytoplankton growth is one of the main drivers of DOC accumulation and therefore of export.

Short summary
Dissolved organic carbon (DOC) has already been identified as a potentially significant source of carbon export in the Mediterranean Sea, though in situ export estimations are scarce. This work provides a thorough analysis at basin scale of carbon export with the coupled model NEMO-MED12/Eco3M-MED model. The seasonality and the processes of particulate and dissolved carbon production are also investigated. DOC export appears to be dominant in most regions, especially in the eastern basin.
Final-revised paper