Articles | Volume 5, issue 5
01 Sep 2008
 | 01 Sep 2008

Organic nutrients and excess nitrogen in the North Atlantic subtropical gyre

A. Landolfi, A. Oschlies, and R. Sanders

Abstract. To enable an accurate estimate of total excess nitrogen (N) in the North Atlantic, a new tracer TNxs is defined, which includes the contribution of organic nutrients to the assessment of N:P stoichiometric anomalies. We measured the spatial distribution of TNxs within the subtropical North Atlantic using data from a trans-Atlantic section across 24.5° N occupied in 2004. We then employ three different approaches to infer rates of total excess nitrogen accumulation using pCFC-12 derived ventilation ages (a TNxs vertical integration, a one end-member and a two-end member mixing model). Despite some variability among the different methods the dissolved organic nutrient fraction always contributes to about half of the TNxs accumulation, which is in the order of 9.38±4.18×1011 mol N y−1. We suggest that neglecting organic nutrients in stoichiometric balances of the marine N and P inventories can lead to systematic errors when estimating deviations of nitrogen excess or deficit relative to the Redfield ratio in the oceans. For the North Atlantic the inclusion of the organic fraction to the excess nitrogen pool leads to an upward revision of the N supply by N2 fixation to 10.2±6.9×1011 mol N y−1.

Final-revised paper