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Impact of changes in river nutrient fluxes on the global marine silicon cycle: a model comparison

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Author(s): C. Y. Bernard | G. G. Laruelle | C. P. Slomp | C. Heinze

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 6;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 4463;
Date: 2009;
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ABSTRACT
The availability of dissolved silica in the ocean provides a major control on the growth of siliceous phytoplankton. Diatoms in particular account for a large proportion of oceanic primary production. The original source of the silica is rock weathering, followed by transport of dissolved and biogenic silica to the coastal zone. This model study aims at assessing the sensitivity of the global marine silicon cycle to variations in the river input of silica and other nutrients on timescales ranging from several centuries to millennia. We compare the performance of a box model for the marine Si cycle to that of a global biogeochemical ocean general circulation model (HAMOCC2 and 5). Results indicate that the average global ocean response to changes in river input of Si is surprisingly similar in the models on time scales up to 150 kyrs. While the trends in export production and opal burial are the same, the box model shows a delayed response to the imposed perturbations compared to the general circulation model. Results of both models confirm the important role of the continental margins as a sink for silica at the global scale. While general circulation models are indispensable when assessing the spatial variation in opal export production and biogenic Si burial in the ocean, this study demonstrates that box models provide a good alternative when studying the average global ocean response to perturbations of the oceanic silica cycle (especially on longer time scales).

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