Where is mineral ballast important for surface export of particulate organic carbon in the ocean?
Le Moigne, Frédéric A.C.
Marcinko, Charlotte L.J.
Sanders, Richard J.
Date of Issue2014
Earth Observatory of Singapore
Correlations between particulate organic carbon (POC) and mineral fluxes in the deep ocean have inspired the inclusion of “ballast effect” parameterizations in carbon cycle models. A recent study demonstrated regional variability in the effect of ballast minerals on the flux of POC in the deep ocean. We have undertaken a similar analysis of shallow export data from the Arctic, Atlantic, and Southern Oceans. Mineral ballasting is of greatest importance in the high-latitude North Atlantic, where 60% of the POC flux is associated with ballast minerals. This fraction drops to around 40% in the Southern Ocean. The remainder of the export flux is not associated with minerals, and this unballasted fraction thus often dominates the export flux. The proportion of mineral-associated POC flux often scales with regional variation in export efficiency (the proportion of primary production that is exported). However, local discrepancies suggest that regional differences in ecology also impact the magnitude of surface export. We propose that POC export will not respond equally across all high-latitude regions to possible future changes in ballast availability.
Geophysical research letters
© 2014 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.