Volcanic ash supply to the surface ocean – remote sensing of biological responses and their wider biogeochemical significance

Browning, T; Stone, K; Bouman, H; Mather, TA; Pyle, DM; Martinez-Vicente, V. 2015 Volcanic ash supply to the surface ocean – remote sensing of biological responses and their wider biogeochemical significance. Frontiers in Marine Science. 10.3389/fmars.2015.00014

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Abstract/Summary

Transient micronutrient enrichment of the surface ocean can enhance phytoplankton growth rates and alter microbial community structure with an ensuing spectrum of biogeochemical feedbacks. Strong phytoplankton responses to micronutrients supplied by volcanic ash have been reported recently. Here we: (i) synthesize findings from these recent studies; (ii) report the results of a new remote sensing study of ash fertilization; and (iii) calculate theoretical bounds of ash-fertilized carbon export. Our synthesis highlights that phytoplankton responses to ash do not always simply mimic that of iron amendment; the exact mechanisms for this are likely biogeochemically important but are not yet well understood. Inherent optical properties of ash-loaded seawater suggest rhyolitic ash biases routine satellite chlorophyll-a estimation upwards by more than an order of magnitude for waters with <0.1 mg chlorophyll-a m-3, and less than a factor of 2 for systems with >0.5 mg chlorophyll-a m-3. For this reason post-ash-deposition chlorophyll-a changes in oligotrophic waters detected via standard Case 1 (open ocean) algorithms should be interpreted with caution. Remote sensing analysis of historic events with a bias less than a factor of 2 provided limited stand-alone evidence for ash-fertilization. Confounding factors were poor coverage, incoherent ash dispersal, and ambiguity ascribing biomass changes to ash supply over other potential drivers. Using current estimates of iron release and carbon export efficiencies, uncertainty bounds of ash-fertilized carbon export for 3 events are presented. Patagonian iron supply to the Southern Ocean from volcanic eruptions is less than that of windblown dust on thousand year timescales but can dominate supply at shorter timescales. Reducing uncertainties in remote sensing of phytoplankton response and nutrient release from ash are avenues for enabling assessment of the oceanic response to large-scale transient nutrient enrichment.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: Phytoplankton, Iron, Ocean Color, nutrient limitation, Carbon Cycle, Dust, MODIS, Inherent optical properties
Subjects: Earth Observation - Remote Sensing
Marine Sciences
Oceanography
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Sea from Space
Depositing User: Dr Victor Martinez Vicente
Date made live: 17 Feb 2015 09:42
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2017 16:13
URI: http://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/6336

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