Publications

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2018
Smith, KL, Ruhl HA, Huffard CL, Messie M, Kahru M.  2018.  Episodic organic carbon fluxes from surface ocean to abyssal depths during long-term monitoring in NE Pacific. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 115:12235-12240.   10.1073/pnas.1814559115   AbstractWebsite

Growing evidence suggests substantial quantities of particulate organic carbon (POC) produced in surface waters reach abyssal depths within days during episodic flux events. A 29-year record of in situ observations was used to examine episodic peaks in POC fluxes and sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC) at Station M (NE Pacific, 4,000-m depth). From 1989 to 2017, 19% of POC flux at 3,400 m arrived during high-magnitude episodic events (>= mean + 2 sigma), and 43% from 2011 to 2017. From 2011 to 2017, when high-resolution SCOC data were available, time lags between changes in satellite-estimated export flux (EF), POC flux, and SCOC on the sea floor varied between six flux events from 0 to 70 days, suggesting variable remineralization rates and/or particle sinking speeds. Half of POC flux pulse events correlated with prior increases in EF and/or subsequent SCOC increases. Peaks in EF overlying Station M frequently translated to changes in POC flux at abyssal depths. A power-law model (Martin curve) was used to estimate abyssal fluxes from EF and midwater temperature variation. While the background POC flux at 3,400-m depth was described well by the model, the episodic events were significantly underestimated by similar to 80% and total flux by almost 50%. Quantifying episodic pulses of organic carbon into the deep sea is critical in modeling the depth and intensity of POC sequestration and understanding the global carbon cycle.

2008
Smith, KL, Ruhl HA, Kaufmann RS, Kahru M.  2008.  Tracing abyssal food supply back to upper-ocean processes over a 17-year time series in the northeast Pacific. Limnology and Oceanography. 53:2655-2667.   10.4319/lo.2008.53.6.2655   AbstractWebsite

Detrital aggregates episodically deposited on the seafloor represent an underestimated food source to deep-sea communities. A 17-yr time-series study was conducted from 1990 to 2006 in the abyssal northeast Pacific (Sta. M, 4100 m in depth) to evaluate the importance of this food source and its temporal relationship to water column and surface ocean processes. Detrital aggregates appeared on the seafloor from June through December, with the highest peaks in 1990, 1994, 2001, and 2002 reaching a maximum density of 23 m(-2) in fall 2001. A total of 15,816 aggregates were measured, most less than 20 cm(2) in area and with a mode of 9 cm(2). Density of detrital aggregates was highly correlated with particulate organic carbon (POC) flux at 600 and 50 m above the bottom (p < 0.001) with no time lag. Export flux of organic carbon from the euphotic zone was significantly correlated with aggregate density, lagged earlier by 1-4 months (p <= 0.001). Zooplankton displacement volume was significantly correlated with POC flux (p =0.023) and with detrital aggregate density (p =0.028) on the seafloor when lagged earlier by <= 1 month. The Bakun upwelling index computed for the region around Sta. M was significantly correlated with detrital aggregate density when lagged earlier by 2-5 months (p < 0.001). A strong correlation exists between surface ocean processes and abyssal food supply, including POC flux and detrital aggregates. This direct coupling through the entire water column must be considered in resolving the marine carbon cycle.