Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Ocean ecosystem models predict that warming and increased surface ocean stratification will trigger a series of ecosystem events, reducing the biological export of particulate carbon to the ocean interior. We present a nearly three-decade time series from the open ocean that documents a biological response to ocean warming and nutrient reductions wherein particulate carbon export is maintained, counter to expectations. Carbon export is maintained through a combination of phytoplankton community change to favor cyanobacteria with high
cellular carbon-to-phosphorus ratios and enhanced shallow phosphorus recycling leading to increased nutrient use efficiency. These results suggest that surface ocean ecosystems may be more responsive and adapt more rapidly to changes in the hydrographic system than is currently envisioned in earth ecosystem models, with positive consequences for ocean carbon uptake.
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Lomas, Michael W.; Bates, Nicholas R.; Johnson, Rodney J.; Steinberg, Deborah K.; and Tanioka, Tatsuro, Adaptive carbon export response to warming in the Sargasso Sea (2022). Nature Communications, 13(1211), 1-10.