Date of Original Version
The sinking of organic particles produced in the upper sunlit layers of the ocean forms an important limb of the oceanic biological pump, which impacts the sequestration of carbon and resupply of nutrients in the mesopelagic ocean. Particles raining out from the upper ocean undergo remineralization by bacteria colonized on their surface and interior, leading to an attenuation in the sinking flux of organic matter with depth. Here, we formulate a mechanistic model for the depth-dependent, sinking, particulate mass flux constituted by a range of sinking, remineralizing particles. Like previous studies, we find that the model does not achieve the characteristic ‘Martin curve’ flux profile with a single type of particle, but instead requires a distribution of particle sizes and/or properties. We consider various functional forms of remineralization appropriate for solid/compact particles, and aggregates with an anoxic or oxic interior. We explore the sensitivity of the shape of the flux vs. depth profile to the choice of remineralization function, relative particle density, particle size distribution, and water column density stratification, and find that neither a power-law nor exponential function provides a definitively superior fit to the modeled profiles. The profiles are also sensitive to the time history of the particle source. Varying surface particle size distribution (via the slope of the particle number spectrum) over 3 days to represent a transient phytoplankton bloom results in transient subsurface maxima or pulses in the sinking mass flux. This work contributes to a growing body of mechanistic export flux models that offer scope to incorporate underlying dynamical and biological processes into global carbon cycle models.
Omand, M.M., Govindarajan, R., He, J. et al. Sinking flux of particulate organic matter in the oceans: Sensitivity to particle characteristics. Sci Rep 10, 5582 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-60424-5
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