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Sinking rates of particles in biogenic silica- and carbonate-dominated production systems of the Atlantic Ocean: implications for the organic carbon fluxes to the deep ocean

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Author(s): G. Fischer | G. Karakas

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 5;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 2541;
Date: 2008;
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ABSTRACT
The flux of materials to the deep sea is dominated by larger, organic-rich particles with sinking rates varying between a few meters and several hundred meters per day. Mineral ballast may regulate the transfer of organic matter and other components by determining the sinking rates, e.g. via particle density. We calculated particle sinking rates from flux patterns and alkenone measurements applying sediment trap experiments from the Atlantic Ocean. We obtained higher particle sinking rates in carbonate-dominated production systems, both regionally and seasonally. During a summer coccolithophorid bloom in the Cape Blanc coastal upwelling off Mauritania, sinking rates reached almost 570 m per day, most probably due the fast sedimentation via zooplankton fecal pellets. During the recurring winter-spring blooms off NW Africa and in opal-rich production systems of the Southern Ocean, sinking rates of larger particles, most probably diatom aggregates, appeared to be lower. Although a tight and overall coupling between dust supply and particle sinking rates was not observed, it remains noticeable that the highest sinking rates occurred mostly in the dust-rich ocean regions off NW Africa. We obtained increasing sinking rates with depth. By using a seven-compartment biogeochemical model, it was shown that deep ocean organic carbon fluxes at a mesotrophic sediment trap site off Cape Blanc can be captured fairly well using seasonal variable particle sinking rates. Our model provides a total organic carbon flux of 0.29 Tg per year down to 3000 m off the NW African upwelling region between 5 and 35° N.

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