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Volume 7, issue 7
Biogeosciences, 7, 2101–2115, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 7, 2101–2115, 2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  06 Jul 2010

06 Jul 2010

Regional and temporal variability of sinking organic matter in the subtropical northeast Atlantic Ocean: a biomarker diagnosis

I. J. Alonso-González1, J. Arístegui1, C. Lee2, and A. Calafat3 I. J. Alonso-González et al.
  • 1Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 35017, Spain
  • 2School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-5000, USA
  • 3GRC Geociències Marines, Dep. de Estratigrafia i Paleontologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, 08028, Spain

Abstract. Sinking particles through the pelagic ocean have been traditionally considered the most important vehicle by which the biological pump sequesters carbon in the ocean interior. Nevertheless, regional scale variability in particle flux is a major outstanding issue in oceanography. Here, we have studied the regional and temporal variability of total particulate organic matter fluxes, as well as chloropigment and total hydrolyzed amino acid (THAA) compositions and fluxes in the Canary Current region, between 20–30° N, during two contrasting periods: August 2006, characterized by warm and stratified waters, but also intense winds which enhanced eddy development south of the Canary Islands, and February 2007, characterized by colder waters, less stratification and higher productivity. We found that the eddy-field generated south of the Canary Islands enhanced by >2 times particulate organic carbon (POC) export with respect to stations (FF; far-field) outside the eddy-field influence. We also observed flux increases of one order of magnitude in chloropigment and 2 times in THAA in the eddy-field relative to FF stations. Principal Components Analysis (PCA) was performed to assess changes in particulate organic matter composition between stations. At eddy-field stations, higher chlorophyll enrichment reflected "fresher" material, while at FF stations a higher proportion of pheophytin indicated greater degradation due to microbes and microzooplankton. PCA also suggests that phytoplankton community structure, particularly the dominance of diatoms versus carbonate-rich plankton, is the major factor influencing the POC export within the eddy field. In February, POC export fluxes were the highest ever reported for this area, reaching values of ~15 mmol C m−2 d−1 at 200 m depth. Compositional changes in pigments and THAA indicate that the source of sinking particles varies zonally and meridionally and suggest that sinking particles were more degraded at near-coastal stations relative to open ocean stations.

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