Articles | Volume 9, issue 12
Research article
03 Dec 2012
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2012

An eddy-stimulated hotspot for fixed nitrogen-loss from the Peru oxygen minimum zone

M. A. Altabet, E. Ryabenko, L. Stramma, D. W. R. Wallace, M. Frank, P. Grasse, and G. Lavik

Abstract. Fixed nitrogen (N) loss to biogenic N2 in intense oceanic O2 minimum zones (OMZ) accounts for a large fraction of the global N sink and is an essential control on the ocean's N-budget. However, major uncertainties exist regarding microbial pathways as well as net impact on the magnitude of N-loss and the ocean's overall N-budget. Here we report the discovery of a N-loss hotspot in the Peru OMZ associated with a coastally trapped mesoscale eddy that is marked by an extreme N-deficit matched by biogenic N2 production, high NO2 levels, and the highest isotope enrichments observed so far in OMZ's for the residual NO3. High sea surface chlorophyll in seaward flowing streamers provides evidence for offshore eddy transport of highly productive, inshore water. Resulting pulses in the downward flux of particles likely stimulated heterotrophic dissimilatory NO3 reduction and subsequent production of biogenic N2 within the OMZ. A shallower biogenic N2 maximum within the oxycline is likely a feature advected by the eddy streamer from the shelf. Eddy-associated temporal-spatial heterogeneity of N-loss, mediated by a local succession of microbial processes, may explain inconsistencies observed among prior studies. Similar transient enhancements of N-loss likely occur within all other major OMZ's exerting a major influence on global ocean N and N isotope budgets.

Final-revised paper