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Quantification of the lithogenic carbon pump following a dust deposition event

Author(s): M. Bressac | C. Guieu | D. Doxaran | F. Bourrin | K. Desboeufs | N. Leblond | C. Ridame

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 10;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 13639;
Date: 2013;
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Lithogenic particles, such as desert dust, have been postulated to influence particulate organic carbon (POC) export to the deep ocean by acting as mineral ballasts. However, an accurate understanding and quantification of the POC-dust association that occurs within the upper ocean is required in order to affine the "ballast hypothesis". In the framework of the DUNE project, two artificial seedings were performed seven days apart within large mesocosms. A suite of optical and biogeochemical measurements were used to quantify surface POC export following simulated dust events within a low-nutrient low-chlorophyll ecosystem. The two successive seedings led to a 2.3–6.7 fold higher POC flux as compared to the POC flux observed in controlled mesocosms. A simple linear regression analysis revealed that the lithogenic fluxes explained more than 85% of the variance in POC fluxes. At the scale of a dust deposition event, we estimated that 42–50% of POC fluxes were strictly associated with lithogenic particles through an aggregation process. Lithogenic ballasting also likely impacted the remaining POC fraction which resulted from the fertilization effect. The observations support the "ballast hypothesis" and provide a quantitative estimation of the surface POC export abiotically triggered by dust deposition. In this work, we demonstrate that the strength of such a "lithogenic carbon pump" depends on the biogeochemical conditions of the water column at the time of deposition. Based on these observations, we suggest that this "lithogenic carbon pump" could represent a major component of the biological pump in oceanic areas subjected to intense atmospheric forcing.
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