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Publication Date
27 February 2018

Influence of Dimethyl Sulfide on the Carbon Cycle and Biological Production



Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a significant source of marine sulfate aerosol and plays an important role in modifying cloud properties. Fully coupled climate simulations using dynamic marine ecosystem and DMS calculations are conducted to estimate DMS fluxes under various climate scenarios and to examine the sign and strength of phytoplankton-DMS-climate feedbacks for the first time. Simulation results show small differences in the DMS production and emissions between pre-industrial and present climate scenarios, except for some areas in the Southern Ocean. There are clear changes in surface ocean DMS concentrations moving into the future, and they are attributable to changes in phytoplankton production and competition driven by complex spatially varying mechanisms. Comparisons between parallel simulations with and without DMS fluxes into the atmosphere show significant differences in marine ecosystems and physical fields. Without DMS, the missing subsequent aerosol indirect effects on clouds and radiative forcing lead to fewer clouds, more solar radiation, and a much warmer climate. Phaeocystis, a uniquely efficient organosulfur producer with a growth advantage under cooler climate states, can benefit from producing the compound through cooling effects of DMS in the climate system. Our results show a tight coupling between the sulfur and carbon cycles. The ocean carbon uptake declines without DMS emissions to the atmosphere. The analysis indicates a weak positive phytoplankton-DMS-climate feedback at the global scale, with large spatial variations driven by individual autotrophic functional groups and complex mechanisms. The sign and strength of the feedback vary with climate states and phytoplankton groups. This highlights the importance of a dynamic marine ecosystem module and the sulfur cycle mechanism in climate projections.

Wang, Shanlin, Mathew Maltrud, Scott Elliott, Philip Cameron-Smith, and Alexandra Jonko. 2018. “Influence Of Dimethyl Sulfide On The Carbon Cycle And Biological Production”. Biogeochemistry 138: 49-68. doi:10.1007/s10533-018-0430-5.
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