Particle export during the Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX)

Buesseler, K. O., J. E. Andrews, S. M. Pike, M. A. Charette, L. E. Goldson, M. A. Brzezinski, V. P. Lance

Limnol. Oceanogr., 50(1), 2005, 311-327 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2005.50.1.0311

ABSTRACT: We studied the effect of iron addition on particle export in the Southern Ocean by measuring changes in the distribution of thorium-234 during a 4-week iron (Fe) enrichment experiment conducted in the high-silicate highnitrate waters just south of the Southern Antarctic Circumpolar Current Front at 172.5°W. Decreases in 234Th activity with time in the fertilized mixed layer (0-50 m) exceeded those in unfertilized waters, indicating enhanced export of 234Th on sinking particles after Fe enrichment. The addition of Fe also affected export below the fertilized patch by increasing the efficiency of particle export through the 100-m depth horizon. Extensive temporal and vertical Lagrangian sampling allowed us to make a detailed examination of the 234Th flux model, which was used to quantify the fluxes of particulate organic carbon (POC) and biogenic silica (bSiO2). Iron addition increased the flux of both POC and bSiO2 out of the mixed layer by about 300%. The flux at 100 m increased by more than 700% and 600% for POC and bSiO2, respectively. The absolute magnitude of the POC and bSiO2 fluxes were not large relative to natural blooms at these latitudes or to those found in association with the termination of blooms in other ocean regions. Our results support the hypothesis that Fe addition leads directly to significant particle export and sequestration of C in the deep ocean. This is a key link between ocean Fe inputs and past changes in atmospheric CO2 and climate.

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