Articles | Volume 7, issue 2
19 Feb 2010
 | 19 Feb 2010

Sargasso Sea phosphorus biogeochemistry: an important role for dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP)

M. W. Lomas, A. L. Burke, D. A. Lomas, D. W. Bell, C. Shen, S. T. Dyhrman, and J. W. Ammerman

Abstract. Inorganic phosphorus (SRP) concentrations in the subtropical North Atlantic are some of the lowest in the global ocean and have been hypothesized to constrain primary production. Based upon data from several transect cruises in this region, it has been hypothesized that dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) supports a significant fraction of primary production in the subtropical North Atlantic. In this study, a time-series of phosphorus biogeochemistry is presented for the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study site, including rates of phosphorus export. Most parameters have a seasonal pattern, although year-over-year variability in the seasonal pattern is substantial, likely due to differences in external forcing. Suspended particulate phosphorus exhibits a seasonal maximum during the spring bloom, despite the absence of a seasonal peak in SRP. However, DOP concentrations are at an annual maximum prior to the winter/spring bloom and decline over the course of the spring bloom while whole community alkaline phosphatase activities are highest. As a result of DOP bioavailability, the growth of particles during the spring bloom occurs in Redfield proportions, though particles exported from the euphotic zone show rapid and significant remineralization of phosphorus within the first 50 m below the euphotic zone. Based upon DOP data from transect cruises in this region, the southward cross gyral flux of DOP is estimated to support ~25% of annual primary production and ~100% of phosphorus export. These estimates are consistent with other research in the subtropical North Atlantic and reinforce the hypothesis that while the subtropics may be phosphorus stressed (a physiological response to low inorganic phosphorus), utilization of the DOP pool allows production and accumulation of microbial biomass at Redfield proportions.

Final-revised paper