Modeling the relative contributions of autotrophs and heterotrophs to carbon flow at a Lagrangian JGOFS station in the Northeast Atlantic: The importance of DOC

Fasham, Michael J. R., Philip W. Boyd, Graham Savidge

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(1), 1999, 80-94 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.1.0080

ABSTRACT: A size-structured ecosystem model was developed and fitted to an extensive set of observations of size-fractionated biomass, primary and heterotrophic bacterial production, respiration, particle flux, and zooplankton herbivory obtained on a cruise in the NE Atlantic during 20 days of the spring bloom. Rates of water-column-integrated primary production and heterotrophic bacterial production were used to force the model, and the model parameters were determined by optimizing the model to the remaining observations. A unique model solution was not possible in the absence of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) measurements. By setting a weak constraint on the DOC concentrations (that they should remain broadly constant), a solution was obtained that predicted a small DOC increase during the bloom period; this increase was similar in magnitude to observations in other areas and produced a good fit with the other data. Major conclusions: (1) gross primary production (GPP) was over twice the measured 14C production estimates; (2) phytoplankton exudation was a major source of DOC, and 35% of the GPP flowed through the DOC and was utilized by the bacteria, with a low gross growth efficiency (17%); (3) 62% of the community respiration came from organisms <5 µm in size; (4) the major source of food for microzooplankton was phytoplankton 1-5 µm in size, but the mesozooplankton ingested more microzooplankton than phytoplankton; and (5) only 8% of the total net primary production was grazed by mesozooplankton. These results provide quantitative support to the emerging consensus on the relative roles of large and small organisms in the euphotic zone and demonstrate the necessity of measuring DOC to constrain the carbon budget within the euphotic zone.

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