Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Functioning of the Ocean Biological Pump in the Oxygen Minimum Zones

Tuesday, December 15, 2015 - 08:00 to 12:20
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Oxygen minimum zones occur at mid-depths in the water column in regions with weak ventilation and relatively high export of organic matter from surface waters. They are important ocean for ocean biogeochemistry, and potentially for climate, as sites of water column denitrification and nitrous oxide production. Denitrification is the dominant loss process for fixed nitrogen in the oceans, and can thus affect the ocean inventory of this key nutrient. Denitrification is less energetically efficient than oxic remineralization. Larger zooplankton, which feed on sinking particles, are not present in the lowest oxygen waters. Both of these factors suggest that the remineralization of sinking particles may be slower within the OMZs than in more oxygenated waters. There is limited field evidence and from some modeling studies that remineralization is slower (remineralization length scales are longer) within OMZ waters. In this talk, I will present results from the Community Earth System Model (CESM) ocean component attempting to test this hypothesis. Comparing model results with observed ocean biogeochemical tracer distributions (i.e., phosphate, oxygen), I will examine whether slower remineralization within low oxygen waters provides a better match between simulated and observed tracer distributions. Longer remineralization length scales under low oxygen conditions would provide a negative feedback under global warming scenarios. The biological pump would transfer organic materials to depth more efficiently as ocean oxygen concentrations decline and the OMZs expand.

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