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Stukel, MR, Kelly TB, Aluwihare LI, Barbeau KA, Goericke R, Krause JW, Landry MR, Ohman MD.  2019.  The Carbon:(234)Thorium ratios of sinking particles in the California current ecosystem 1: relationships with plankton ecosystem dynamics. Marine Chemistry. 212:1-15.   10.1016/j.marchem.2019.01.003   AbstractWebsite

We investigated variability in the C:Th-234 ratio of sinking particles and its relationship to changing water column characteristics and plankton ecological dynamics during 29 Lagrangian experiments conducted on six cruises of the California Current Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research (CCE-LTER) Program. C:Th-234 ratios of sinking particles collected by a surface-tethered sediment trap ((CThST)-Th-:234) varied from 2.3 to 20.5 mu mol C dpm(-1) over a depth range of 47-150 m. C:Th-234(ST) was significantly greater (by a factor of 1.8) than C:Th-234 ratios of suspended > 51-mu m particles collected in the same water parcels with in situ pumps. C:Th-234 ratios of large (> 200-mu m) sinking particles also exceeded those of smaller sinking particles. C:Th-234(ST) decreased with depth from the base of the euphotic zone through the upper twilight zone. C:Th-234(ST) was positively correlated with several indices of ecosystem productivity including particulate organic carbon (POC) and chlorophyll (Chl) concentrations, mesozooplankton biomass, and the fraction of Chl > 20-mu m. Principal component analysis and multiple linear regression suggested that decaying phytoplankton blooms exhibited higher C:Th-234(ST) than actively growing blooms at similar biomass levels. C:Th-234(ST) was positively correlated with indices of the fractional contribution of fecal pellets in sediment traps when the proportion of fecal pellets was low in the traps, likely because of a correlation between mesozooplankton biomass and other indices of ecosystem productivity. However, when fecal pellets were a more important component of sinking material, C:Th-234(ST) decreased with increasing fecal pellet content. C:Th-234(ST) was also positively correlated with the Si:C ratio of sinking particles. Across the dataset (and across depths) a strong correlation was found between C:Th-234(ST) and the ratio of vertically-integrated POC to vertically-integrated total water column Th-234 (C-v:Th-234(tot)). A mechanistic one-layer, two-box model of thorium sorption and desorption was invoked to explain this correlation. Two empirical models (one using C-v:Th-234(tot); one using depth and vertically-integrated Chl) were developed to predict C:Th-234 ratios in this coastal upwelling biome. The former regression (log(10)(C:Th-234(ST)) = 0.43 x log(10)(C-v:Th-234(tot)) + 0.53) was found to also be a reasonable predictor for C:Th-234(ST) from diverse regions including the Southern Ocean, Sargasso Sea, Subarctic North Pacific, and Eastern Tropical North Pacific.

Stukel, MR, Decima M, Landry MR, Selph KE.  2018.  Nitrogen and Isotope Flows Through the Costa Rica Dome Upwelling Ecosystem: The Crucial Mesozooplankton Role in Export Flux. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 32:1815-1832.   10.1029/2018gb005968   AbstractWebsite

The Costa Rica Dome (CRD) is an open-ocean upwelling ecosystem, with high biomasses of picophytoplankton (especially Synechococcus), mesozooplankton, and higher trophic levels. To elucidate the food web pathways supporting the trophic structure and carbon export in this unique ecosystem, we used Markov Chain Monte Carlo techniques to assimilate data from four independent realizations of N-15 and planktonic rate measurements from the CRD into steady state, multicompartment ecosystem box models (linear inverse models). Model results present well-constrained snapshots of ecosystem nitrogen and stable isotope fluxes. New production is supported by upwelled nitrate, not nitrogen fixation. Protistivory (rather than herbivory) was the most important feeding mode for mesozooplankton, which rely heavily on microzooplankton prey. Mesozooplankton play a central role in vertical nitrogen export, primarily through active transport of nitrogen consumed in the surface layer and excreted at depth, which comprised an average 36-46% of total export. Detritus or aggregate feeding is also an important mode of resource acquisition by mesozooplankton and regeneration of nutrients within the euphotic zone. As a consequence, the ratio of passively sinking particle export to phytoplankton production is very low in the CRD. Comparisons to similar models constrained with data from the nearby equatorial Pacific demonstrate that the dominant role of vertical migrators to the biological pump is a unique feature of the CRD. However, both regions show efficient nitrogen transfer from mesozooplankton to higher trophic levels (as expected for regions with large fish, cetacean, and seabird populations) despite the dominance of protists as major grazers of phytoplankton. Plain Language Summary Most of the world's oceanic regions can be divided into (1) low-nutrient areas where small algae dominate and crustaceans, fish, and whales are scarce or (2) productive areas where large algae dominate, crustaceans and higher trophic levels are abundant, and substantial carbon is transported to depth as part of the biological pump. The Costa Rica Dome (CRD) is a unique natural laboratory for investigating the relationships between algae, zooplankton, and marine biogeochemistry because it is a productive region dominated by cyanobacteria (small algae) that nevertheless sustains large populations of crustaceans, fish, and whales. We used a novel data assimilation tool to constrain a food web model using at-sea rate measurements of plankton activity and nitrogen stable isotopes. We found that protists are an important intermediate trophic level linking cyanobacteria and mesozooplankton. Efficient recycling by the zooplankton community facilitates nitrogen transfer to fish, whales, and seabirds. In the CRD, vertically migrating zooplankton (which feed in the surface during the night but descend to depth during the day to escape predators) play a particularly important role in transporting nitrogen (and carbon dioxide) from the surface to the deep ocean, where it can be removed from the atmosphere.

Steinberg, DK, Landry MR.  2017.  Zooplankton and the ocean carbon cycle. Annual Review of Marine Sciences, Vol 9. 9:413-444., Palo Alto: Annual Reviews   10.1146/annurev-marine-010814-015924   Abstract

Marine zooplankton comprise a phylogenetically and functionally diverse assemblage of protistan and metazoan consumers that occupy multiple trophic levels in pelagic food webs. Within this complex network, carbon flows via alternative zooplankton pathways drive temporal and spatial variability in production-grazing coupling, nutrient cycling, export, and transfer efficiency to higher trophic levels. We explore current knowledge of the processing of zooplankton food ingestion by absorption, egestion, respiration, excretion, and growth (production) processes. On a global scale, carbon fluxes are reasonably constrained by the grazing impact of microzooplankton and the respiratory requirements of mesozooplankton but are sensitive to uncertainties in trophic structure. The relative importance, combined magnitude, and efficiency of export mechanisms (mucous feeding webs, fecal pellets, molts, carcasses, and vertical migrations) likewise reflect regional variability in community structure. Climate change is expected to broadly alter carbon cycling by zooplankton and to have direct impacts on key species.

Stukel, MR, Kahru M, Benitez-Nelson CR, Decima M, Goericke R, Landry MR, Ohman MD.  2015.  Using Lagrangian-based process studies to test satellite algorithms of vertical carbon flux in the eastern North Pacific Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:7208-7222.   10.1002/2015jc011264   AbstractWebsite

The biological carbon pump is responsible for the transport of similar to 5-20 Pg C yr(-1) from the surface into the deep ocean but its variability is poorly understood due to an incomplete mechanistic understanding of the complex underlying planktonic processes. In fact, algorithms designed to estimate carbon export from satellite products incorporate fundamentally different assumptions about the relationships between plankton biomass, productivity, and export efficiency. To test the alternate formulations of export efficiency in remote-sensing algorithms formulated by Dunne et al. (2005), Laws et al. (2011), Henson et al. (2011), and Siegel et al. (2014), we have compiled in situ measurements (temperature, chlorophyll, primary production, phytoplankton biomass and size structure, grazing rates, net chlorophyll change, and carbon export) made during Lagrangian process studies on seven cruises in the California Current Ecosystem and Costa Rica Dome. A food-web based approach formulated by Siegel et al. (2014) performs as well or better than other empirical formulations, while simultaneously providing reasonable estimates of protozoan and mesozooplankton grazing rates. By tuning the Siegel et al. (2014) algorithm to match in situ grazing rates more accurately, we also obtain better in situ carbon export measurements. Adequate representations of food-web relationships and grazing dynamics are therefore crucial to improving the accuracy of export predictions made from satellite-derived products. Nevertheless, considerable unexplained variance in export remains and must be explored before we can reliably use remote sensing products to assess the impact of climate change on biologically mediated carbon sequestration.