Box-modelling of the impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition and benthic remineralisation on the nitrogen cycle of the eastern tropical South Pacific
- GEOMAR Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Marine Biogeochemical Modelling, Düsternbrooker Weg 20, 24105 Kiel, Germany
Abstract. Both atmospheric deposition and benthic remineralisation influence the marine nitrogen cycle, and hence ultimately also marine primary production. The biological and biogeochemical relations in the eastern tropical South Pacific (ETSP) among nitrogen deposition, benthic denitrification and phosphorus regeneration are analysed in a prognostic box model of the oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus cycles in the ETSP. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition ( ≈ 1.5 Tg N yr−1 for the years 2000–2009) is offset by half in the model by reduced N2 fixation, with the other half transported out of the model domain. Model- and data-based benthic denitrification in our model domain are responsible for losses of 0.19 and 1.0 Tg Tg N yr−1, respectively, and both trigger nitrogen fixation, partly compensating for the NO3− loss. Model- and data-based estimates of enhanced phosphate release via sedimentary phosphorus regeneration under suboxic conditions are 0.062 and 0.11 Tg N yr−1, respectively. Since phosphate is the ultimate limiting nutrient in the model, even very small additional phosphate inputs stimulate primary production and subsequent export production and NO3− loss in the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ). A sensitivity analysis of the local response to both atmospheric deposition and benthic remineralisation indicates dominant stabilising feedbacks in the ETSP, which tend to keep a balanced nitrogen inventory; i.e. nitrogen input by atmospheric deposition is counteracted by decreasing nitrogen fixation; NO3− loss via benthic denitrification is partly compensated for by increased nitrogen fixation; enhanced nitrogen fixation stimulated by phosphate regeneration is partly counteracted by stronger water-column denitrification. Even though the water column in our model domain acts as a NO3− source, the ETSP including benthic denitrification might be a NO3− sink.