Contribution of Fish to the Marine Inorganic Carbon Cycle

Oceanic production of calcium carbonate is conventionally attributed to marine plankton (coccolithophores and foraminifera). Here we report that marine fish produce precipitated carbonates within their intestines and excrete these at high rates. When combined with estimates of global fish biomass, this suggests that marine fish contribute 3 to 15% of total oceanic carbonate production. Fish carbonates have a higher magnesium content and solubility than traditional sources, yielding faster dissolution with depth. This may explain up to a quarter of the increase in titratable alkalinity within 1000 meters of the ocean surface, a controversial phenomenon that has puzzled oceanographers for decades. We also predict that fish carbonate production may rise in response to future environmental changes in carbon dioxide, and thus become an increasingly important component of the inorganic carbon cycle.



Wilson R. W., Millero F. J., J. R. Taylor J. R., Walsh P. J., Christensen V., Jennings S. & Grosell M., 2009. Contribution of Fish to the Marine Inorganic Carbon Cycle. Science 323(5912): 359-362. Article (subscription required).

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