Decadal and annual changes in biogenic opal and carbonate fluxes to the deep Sargasso Sea Academic Article uri icon


  • Analyses of samples from a 14-year series of sediment-trap deployments in the deep Sargasso Sea reveal a significant trend in the ratio of the sinking fluxes of biogenic calcium carbonate and silica. Although there are pronounced seasonal cycles for both flux components, the overall opal/CaCO3 ratio changed by 50% from 1978 to 1991 (largely due to a decrease of opal flux), while total flux had no significant trend. These results suggest that plankton communities respond rapidly to subtle climate change, such as is evident in regional variations of wind speed, precipitation, wintertime Ventilation and midwater temperatures. If the trends we observe in the makeup of sinking particulate matter occur on a large scale, they may in turn modify climate by modulating ocean-atmosphere CO2 exchange and albedo over the ocean.

publication date

  • November 1995