Articles | Volume 9, issue 11
Research article
08 Nov 2012
Research article |  | 08 Nov 2012

Spatial and temporal variability in nutrients and carbon uptake during 2004 and 2005 in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean

A. P. Palacz and F. Chai

Abstract. The eastern equatorial Pacific plays a~great role in the global carbon budget due to its enhanced biological productivity linked to the equatorial upwelling. However, as confirmed by the Equatorial Biocomplexity cruises in 2004 and 2005, nutrient upwelling supply varies strongly, partly due to the tropical instability waves (TIWs). The aim of this study was to examine patterns of spatial and temporal variability in the biological uptake of NO3, Si(OH)4 and carbon in this region, and to evaluate the role of biological and physical interactions controlling this variability over seasonal and intraseasonal time scales. Here, high resolution Pacific ROMS–CoSiNE (Regional Ocean Modeling System–Carbon, Silicon, Nitrogen Ecosystem) model results were evaluated with in situ and remote sensing data. The results of model–data comparison revealed a good agreement in domain-average hydrographic and biological rate estimates, and patterns of spatio-temporal variability in primary productivity. We confirmed that TIWs have the potential to enhance phytoplankton biomass through an increased supply of nutrients and elevated local and instantaneous phytoplankton nutrient uptake as opposed to only advecting biomass. Furthermore, we concluded that initial biological conditions (e.g., zooplankton biomass) may play an important additional constraint on biological responses, in particular of large phytoplankton such as diatoms, to TIW-induced perturbations in the physical and biogeochemical fields and fluxes. In order to fully resolve the complexity of biological and physical interactions in the eastern equatorial Pacific, we recommended improving CoSiNE and other models by introducing more phytoplankton groups, variable Redfield and carbon to chlorophyll ratios, as well as resolving the Fe–Si co-limitation of phytoplankton growth.

Final-revised paper