In situ measurement of mesopelagic particle sinking rates and the control of carbon transfer to the ocean interior during the Vertical Flux in the Global Ocean (VERTIGO) voyages in the North Pacific
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Among the parameters affecting carbon transfer to the ocean interior, particle sinking rates vary three orders of magnitude and thus more than primary production, f-ratios, or particle carbon contents [e.g., Boyd, P.W., Trull, T.W., 2006. Understanding the export of marine biogenic particles: is there consensus? Progress in Oceanography 4, 276-312, doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2006.10.0071. Very few data have been obtained from the mesopelagic zone where the majority of carbon remineralization occurs and the attenuation of the sinking flux is determined. Here, we report sinking rates from similar to 300m depth for the subtropical (station ALOHA, June 2004) and subarctic (station K2, July 2005) North Pacific Ocean, obtained from short (6.5 day) deployments of an indented rotating sphere (IRS) sediment trap operating as an in situ settling column [Peterson, M.L., Wakeham, S.G., Lee. C., Askea, M.A., Miquel,J.C., 2005. Novel techniques for collection of sinking particles in the ocean and determining their settling rates. Limnology and Oceanography Methods 3, 520-532] to separate the flux into 11 sinking-rate fractions ranging from > 820 to > 2 m d(-1) that are collected by a carousel for further analysis. Functioning of the IRS trap was tested using a novel programming sequence to check that all particles have cleared the settling column prior to the next delivery of particles by the 6-hourly rotation cycle of the IRS. There was some evidence (from the flux distribution among the cups and photomicroscopy of the collected particles) that very slow-sinking particles may have been under-collected because they were unable to penetrate the brine-filled collection cups, but good evidence for appropriate collection of fast-settling fractions. Approximately 50% of the particulate organic carbon (POC) flux was sinking at greater than 100 m d(-1) at both stations. At ALOHA, more than 15% of the POC flux sank at > 820 m d(-1). but low fluxes make this uncertain, and precluded resolution of particles sinking slower than 137 m d-1. At K2, less than 1% of the POC flux sank at > 820 m d(-1), but a large fraction (similar to 15-45%) of the flux was contributed by other fast-sinking classes (410 and 205 m d(-1)). PIC and BSi minerals were not present in higher proportions in the faster sinking fractions, but the observations were too limited to rule out a ballasting contribution to the control of sinking rates. Photographic evidence for a wide range of particle types within individual sinking-rate fractions suggests that biological processes that set the porosity and shape of particles are also important and may mask the role of minerals. Comparing the spectrum of sinking rates observed at K2 with the power-law profile of flux attenuation with depth obtained from other VERTIGO sediment traps deployed at multiple depths [Buesseler, K.O., Lamborg. C.H., Boyd, P.W., Lam, P.J., Trull, T.W., Bidigare, R.R.. Bishop, J.K.B., Casciotti, K.L., Dehairs, F., Elskens, M., Honda, M., Karl, D.M., Siegel, D., Silver, M., Steinberg, D., Valdes, J., Van Mooy, B., Wilson, S.E., 2007b. Revisiting carbon flux through the Ocean’s twilight zone. Science 316(5824), 567-570, doi: 10.1126/science.11379591 emphasizes the importance of particle transformations within the mesopelagic zone in the control of carbon transport to the ocean interior. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.