University Of Tasmania
127470 - Alternative particle formation pathways in the Eastern Tropical North.pdf (1.62 MB)
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Alternative particle formation pathways in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific’s biological carbon pump

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 19:53 authored by Emma Cavan, Giering, SLC, Wolff, GA, Trimmer, M, Sanders, R
A fraction of organic carbon produced in the oceans by phytoplankton sinks storing 5–15 gigatonnes of carbon annually in the ocean interior. The accepted paradigm is that rapid aggregation of phytoplankton cells occurs, forming large, fresh particles which sink quickly; this concept is incorporated into ecosystem models used to predict the future climate. Here we demonstrate a slower, less efficient export pathway in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific. Lipid biomarkers suggest that the large, fast‐sinking particles found beneath the mixed layer are compositionally distinct from those found in the mixed layer and thus not directly and efficiently formed from phytoplankton cells. We postulate that they are formed from the in situ aggregation of smaller, slow‐sinking particles over time in the mixed layer itself. This export pathway is likely widespread where smaller phytoplankton species dominate. Its lack of representation in biogeochemical models suggests that they may be currently overestimating the ability of the oceans to store carbon if large, fast‐sinking, labile particles dominate simulated particle export.


Publication title

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Inc.

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

©2018. The Authors. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Measurement and assessment of freshwater quality (incl. physical and chemical conditions of water)

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