Experimental evidence of formation of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and POC export provoked by dust addition under current and high pCO2 conditions

The evolution of organic carbon export to the deep ocean, under anthropogenic forcing such as ocean warming and acidification, needs to be investigated in order to evaluate potential positive or negative feedbacks on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and therefore on climate. As such, modifications of aggregation processes driven by transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) formation have the potential to affect carbon export. The objectives of this study were to experimentally assess the dynamics of organic matter, after the simulation of a Saharan dust deposition event, through the measurement over one week of TEP abundance and size, and to evaluate the effects of ocean acidification on TEP formation and carbon export following a dust deposition event. Three experiments were performed in the laboratory using 300 L tanks filled with filtered seawater collected in the Mediterranean Sea, during two ‘no bloom’ periods (spring at the start of the stratification period and autumn at the end of this stratification period) and during the winter bloom period. For each experiment, one of the two tanks was acidified to reach pH conditions slightly below values projected for 2100 (~ 7.6–7.8). In both tanks, a dust deposition event of 10 g m-2 was simulated at the surface. Our results suggest that Saharan dust deposition triggered the abiotic formation of TEP, leading to the formation of organic-mineral aggregates. The amount of particulate organic carbon (POC) exported was proportional to the flux of lithogenic particles to the sediment traps. Depending on the season, the POC flux following artificial dust deposition ranged between 38 and 90 mg m-2 over six experimental days. Such variability is likely linked to the seasonal differences in the quality and quantity of TEP-precursors initially present in seawater. Finally, these export fluxes were not significantly different at the completion of the three experiments between the two pH conditions.

Louis J., Pedrotti M. L., Gazeau F. & Guieu C., 2017. Experimental evidence of formation of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) and POC export provoked by dust addition under current and high pCO2 conditions. PLoS ONE 12(2):e0171980. Article.

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