Coccolithophore surface distributions in the North Atlantic and their modulation of the air-sea flux of CO2 from 10 years of satellite Earth observation data

Shutler, J; Land, PE; Brown, CW; Findlay, HS; Donlon, CJ; Medland, M; Snooke, R; Blackford, JC. 2012 Coccolithophore surface distributions in the North Atlantic and their modulation of the air-sea flux of CO2 from 10 years of satellite Earth observation data. Biogeosciences Discussions, 9. 5823-5848.

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Abstract/Summary

Coccolithophores are the primary oceanic phytoplankton responsible for the production of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). These climatically important plankton play a key role in the oceanic carbon cycle as a major contributor of carbon to the open ocean 5 carbonate pump (�50%) and their formation can affect the atmosphere-to-ocean (airsea) uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) through increasing the seawater partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). Here we document variations in the areal extent of surface blooms of the globally important coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi, in the North Atlantic over a 10-year period (1998–2007), using Earth observation data from the Sea-viewing Wide 10 Field of view Sensor (SeaWiFS).We calculate the annual mean surface areal coverage of E. huxleyi in the North Atlantic to be 474 000±119 000km2 yr−1, which results in a net CaCO3 production of 0.62±0.15 Tg CaCO3 carbon per year. However, this surface coverage and net production can fluctuate by −54/+81% about these mean values and are strongly correlated with the El Ni˜no/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate os15 cillation index (r =0.75, p<0.02). Our analysis evaluates the spatial extent over which the E. huxleyi blooms in the North Atlantic can increase the pCO2 and thus decrease the localised sink of atmospheric CO2. In regions where the blooms are prevalent, the average reduction in the monthly CO2 sink can reach 12 %. The maximum reduction of the monthly CO2 sink in the time series is 32 %. This work suggests that the high 20 variability, frequency and distribution of these calcifying plankton and their impact on pCO2 should be considered within modelling studies of the North Atlantic if we are to fully understand the variability of its air-to-sea CO2 flux.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Depositing User: Miss Gemma Brice
Date made live: 26 Mar 2014 14:09
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2017 17:57
URI: http://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/5924

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