Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the euphotic zone in the northwestern Sargasso Sea

Abstract

THE export of biogenic carbon from the upper ocean is responsible for maintaining the vertical gradient of dissolved inorganic carbon and thus indirectly for regulating the level of atmospheric CO2 (ref. 1). Large, rapidly sinking particles are thought to dominate this export2, and this sinking flux has been thought to balance new production3. Recent measurements of particle export4—6 and estimates of new production7—9 have questioned this picture, however. Here we report measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) off Bermuda, which provide strong support for the idea10—15 that this component of oceanic carbon is also an important and dynamic part of the ocean carbon cycle. We find that DOC accumulates in the early spring owing to increased primary production, and is partially consumed in the summer and autumn. The DOC that escapes remineralization is exported from the surface ocean the following winter, and we estimate this export to be equal to or greater than the measured particle flux, allowing us to close the annual vertical carbon budget for this site to within a factor of two. Our observations should be applicable to other temperate, sub-polar and continental-shelf regions of the world ocean which exhibit convective mixing and vernal restratification.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Sarmiento, J. L. & Siegenthaler, U. in Primary Productivity and Biogeochemical Cycles in the Sea (eds Falkowski, P. G. & Woodhead, A. D.) 317–332 (Plenum, New York, 1992).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    McCave, I. N. Deep-Sea Res. 22, 491–502 (1975).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Eppley, R. W. & Peterson, B. J. Nature 282, 677–680 (1979).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Altabet, M. A. J. geophys. Res. 94, 12771–12779 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Lohrenz, S. E. et al. Deep-Sea Res. 39, 1373–1391 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Michaels, A. F. et al. Deep-Sea Res. 41, 1013–1038 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Jenkins, W. J. & Goldman, J. C. J. Mar. Res. 43, 465–491 (1985).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Jenkins, W. J. Nature 331, 521–523 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Spitzer, W. S. & Jenkins, W. J. J. mar. Res. 47, 169–196 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Copin-Montégut, G. & Avril, B. Deep-Sea Res. 40, 1963–1972 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Toggweiler, J. R. in Productivity of the Ocean: Present and Past (eds Berger, W. H., Smetacek, V. S. & Wefer, G.) 65–83 (Wiley, Dahlem Donferenzen, Germany, 1989).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Bacastow, R. & Maier-Reimer, E. Globl Biogeochem. Cycles 5, 71–85 (1991).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Najjar, R. G., Sarmiento, J. L. & Toggweiler, J. R. Globl Biogeochem. Cycles 6, 45–76 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Suzuki, Y., Sugimura, Y. & Itoh, T. Mar. Chem. 16, 83–97 (1985).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Goldman, J. C., Hansell, D. A. & Dennett, M. R. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 88, 257–270 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Sugimura, Y. & Suzuki, Y. Mar. Chem. 24, 105–131 (1988).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Suzuki, Y. Mar. Chem. 41, 287–288 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Sharp, J. H. et al. Limnol. Oceanogr. 38, 1774–1782 (1993).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Hansell, D. A., Williams, P. M. & Ward, B. B. Deep Sea Res. 40, 219–234 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Sharp, J. H. et al. Mar. Chem. (in the press).

  21. 21

    Peltzer, E. T. & Brewer, P. G. Mar. Chem. 41, 243–252 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Benner, R. & Strom, M. Mar. Chem. 41, 153–160 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Menzel, D. W. & Ryther, J. H. Deep-Sea Res. 6, 351–367 (1960).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Malone, T. C., Pike, S. E. & Conley, D. J. Deep-Sea Res. 40, 903–924 (1993).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Bauer, J. E., Williams, P. M. & Druffel, E. R. M. Nature 357, 667–670 (1992).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Duursma, E. K. Neth. J. Sea Res. 1, 1–148 (1961).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Siegel, D. A. et al. J. mar. Res. 48, 379–412 (1990).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Michaels, A., Buesseler, K., Bates, N., Carlson, C. A. & Knap, A. Nature (submitted).

  29. 29

    Sarmiento, J. L., Thiele, G., Key, R. M. & Moore, W. S. J. geophys. Res. 95, 18303–18315 (1990).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Martin, J. H., Knauer, G. A., Karl, D. M. & Broenkow, W. W. Deep-Sea Res. 34, 127–143 (1987).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Carlson, C. A. & Ducklow, H. W. Deep-Sea Res. (in the press).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Carlson, C., Ducklow, H. & Michaels, A. Annual flux of dissolved organic carbon from the euphotic zone in the northwestern Sargasso Sea. Nature 371, 405–408 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1038/371405a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing