Vertically migrating phytoplankton drive seasonal formation of subsurface negative preformed nitrate anomalies in the subtropical North Pacific and North Atlantic

Academic Article


  • <p><strong>Abstract.</strong> Summertime drawdown of dissolved inorganic carbon in the absence of measurable nutrients from the mixed layer and subsurface negative preformed nitrate (preNO<sub>3</sub>) anomalies observed for the ocean's subtropical gyres are two biogeochemical phenomena that have thus far eluded complete description. Many processes are thought to contribute including biological nitrogen fixation, lateral nutrient transport, carbon overconsumption or non-Redfield C<span class="thinspace"></span>:<span class="thinspace"></span>N<span class="thinspace"></span>:<span class="thinspace"></span>P organic matter cycling, heterotrophic nutrient uptake, and the actions of vertically migrating phytoplankton. Here we investigate the seasonal formation rates and potential contributing mechanisms for negative preformed nitrate anomalies (oxygen consumption without stoichiometric nitrate release) in the subsurface and positive preformed nitrate anomalies (oxygen production without stoichiometric nitrate drawdown) in the euphotic zone at the subtropical ocean time series stations ALOHA in the North Pacific and BATS in the North Atlantic. Non-Redfield &amp;minus;O<sub>2</sub><span class="thinspace"></span>:<span class="thinspace"></span>N stoichiometry for dissolved organic matter (DOM) remineralization is found to account for up to ~<span class="thinspace"></span>15<span class="thinspace"></span>mmol N<span class="thinspace"></span>m<sup>&amp;minus;2</sup><span class="thinspace"></span>yr<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup> of negative preNO<sub>3</sub> anomaly formation at both stations. Residual negative preNO<sub>3</sub> anomalies in excess of that which can be accounted for by non-Redfield DOM cycling are found to accumulate at a rate of ~<span class="thinspace"></span>32&amp;ndash;46<span class="thinspace"></span>mmol N<span class="thinspace"></span>m<sup>&amp;minus;2</sup><span class="thinspace"></span>yr<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup> at station ALOHA and ~<span class="thinspace"></span>46&amp;ndash;87<span class="thinspace"></span>mmol N<span class="thinspace"></span>m<sup>&amp;minus;2</sup><span class="thinspace"></span>yr<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup> at the BATS station. These negative anomaly formation rates are in approximate balance with positive preNO<sub>3</sub> anomaly formation rates from the euphotic zone located immediately above the nutricline in the water column. Cycling of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and heterotrophic nitrate uptake can contribute to the formation of these preNO<sub>3</sub> anomalies, however a significant fraction, estimated at ~<span class="thinspace"></span>50&amp;ndash;95<span class="thinspace"></span>%, is unexplained by the sum of these processes. Vertically migrating phytoplankton possess the necessary nutrient acquisition strategy and biogeochemical signature to quantitatively explain both the residual negative and positive preNO<sub>3</sub> anomalies as well as the mixed layer dissolved inorganic carbon drawdown at stations ALOHA and BATS. TEP production by the model <i>Rhizosolenia</i> mat system could provide accelerated vertical transport of TEP as well as link the three processes together. Phytoplankton vertical migrators, although rare and easily overlooked, may play a large role in subtropical ocean nutrient cycling and the biological pump.</p>
  • Authors

  • Letscher, Robert
  • Villareal, Tracy A
  • Publication Date

  • April 9, 2018
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 1
  • End Page

  • 40