Possible biological or physical explanations for decadal scale trends in North Pacific nutrient concentrations and oxygen utilization

Klaus Keller, Richard D. Slater, Michael Bender, Robert M. Key

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34 Scopus citations

Abstract

We analyze North Pacific GEOSECS (1970s) and WOCE (1990s) observations to examine potential decadal trends of the marine biological carbon pump. Nitrate concentrations ([NO-3]) and apparent oxygen utilization (AOU) decreased significantly in intermediate waters (by -0.6 and -2.9 μmol kg-1, respectively, at σθ = 27.4 kg m-3, corresponding to ≈ 1050 m). In shallow waters (above roughly 750 m) [NO-3] and AOU increased, though the changes were not statistically significant. A sensitivity study with an ocean general circulation model indicates that reasonable perturbations of the biological carbon pump due to changes in export production or remineralization efficiency are insufficient to account for the intermediate water tracer trends. However, changes in water ventilation rates could explain the intermediate water tracer trends and would be consistent with trends of water age derived from radiocarbon. Trends in AOU and [NO-3] provide relatively poor constraints on decadal scale trends in the marine biological carbon pump for two reasons. First, most of the expected changes due to decadal scale perturbations of the marine biota occur in shallow waters, where the available data are typically too sparse to account for the strong spatial and temporal variability. Second, alternative explanations for the observed tracer trends (e.g., changes in the water ventilation rates) cannot be firmly rejected. Our data analysis does not disprove the null-hypothesis of an unchanged biological carbon pump in the North Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)345-362
Number of pages18
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Volume49
Issue number1-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography

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