Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

James Collins

»The multiple fates of sinking particles in the North Atlantic Ocean
»Estimates of new and total productivity in central Long Island Sound from in situ measurements of nitrate and dissolved oxygen

Collins, J. R., B. R. Edwards, K. Thamatrakoln, J. E. Ossolinski, G. R. DiTullio, K. D. Bidle, S. C. Doney, and B. A. S. Van Mooy, The multiple fates of sinking particles in the North Atlantic Ocean, Global Biogeochemical Cycles 29:1471-1494, 2015

The direct respiration of sinking organic matter by attached bacteria is often invoked as the dominant sink for settling particles in the mesopelagic ocean. However, other processes, such as enzymatic solubilization and mechanical disaggregation, also contribute to particle flux attenuation by transferring organic matter to the water column. Here, we use observations from the North Atlantic Ocean, coupled to sensitivity analyses of a simple model, to assess the relative importance of particle-attached microbial respiration compared to the other processes that can degrade sinking particles. The observed carbon fluxes, bacterial production rates, and respiration by water column and particle-attached microbial communities each spanned more than an order of magnitude. Rates of substrate-specific respiration on sinking particle material ranged from 0.007 ± 0.003 to 0.173 ± 0.105 d-1. A comparison of these substrate-specific respiration rates with model results suggested sinking particle material was transferred to the water column by various biological and mechanical processes nearly 3.5 times as fast as it was directly respired. This finding, coupled with strong metabolic demand imposed by measurements of water column respiration (729.3 ± 266.0 mg C m-2 d-1, on average, over the 50 to 150 m depth interval), suggested a large fraction of the organic matter evolved from sinking particles ultimately met its fate through subsequent remineralization in the water column. At three sites, we also measured very low bacterial growth efficiencies and large discrepancies between depth-integrated mesopelagic respiration and carbon inputs.

Supporting data from this publication are available in the BCO-DMO repository: (KN207-3) and (KN207-1)

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