Articles | Volume 13, issue 14
Research article
18 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 18 Jul 2016

Diatoms Si uptake capacity drives carbon export in coastal upwelling systems

Fatima Abrantes, Pedro Cermeno, Cristina Lopes, Oscar Romero, Lélia Matos, Jolanda Van Iperen, Marta Rufino, and Vitor Magalhães

Abstract. Coastal upwelling systems account for approximately half of global ocean primary production and contribute disproportionately to biologically driven carbon sequestration. Diatoms, silica-precipitating microalgae, constitute the dominant phytoplankton in these productive regions, and their abundance and assemblage composition in the sedimentary record is considered one of the best proxies for primary production. The study of the sedimentary diatom abundance (SDA) and total organic carbon content (TOC) in the five most important coastal upwelling systems of the modern ocean (Iberia–Canary, Benguela, Peru–Humboldt, California, and Somalia–Oman) reveals a global-scale positive relationship between diatom production and organic carbon burial. The analysis of SDA in conjunction with environmental variables of coastal upwelling systems such as upwelling strength, satellite-derived net primary production, and surface water nutrient concentrations shows different relations between SDA and primary production on the regional scale. On the global scale, SDA appears modulated by the capacity of diatoms to take up silicic acid, which ultimately sets an upper limit to global export production in these ocean regions.

Short summary
Diatoms are the dominant primary producers of the most productive and best fishing areas of the modern ocean, the coastal upwelling systems. This turns them into important contributors to the biological pump and climate change. To help untangle their response to warming climate, we compare the worldwide diatom sedimentary abundance (SDA) to environmental variables and find that the capacity of diatoms to take up silicic acid sets an upper limit on global export production in these ocean regions.
Final-revised paper