Controls on carbon export in the subtropical North Atlantic

Veli Çağlar Yumruktepe, Barış Salihoğlu, Susanne Neuer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We present a lower trophic level pelagic ecosystem model that allows the investigation of the role of hydrography, bacterial remineralization and detritus consumption on the strength of carbon export and its attenuation. We apply the model to investigate the controls on the carbon export at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study site (BATS) and the European Station for Time series in the Ocean, Canary Islands (ESTOC) in the subtropical North Atlantic. In previous field studies, export ratios at 200 m (the ratio between particulate carbon export below the euphotic zone and primary production) were found to be 300–400% smaller at ESTOC compared to BATS. Our model results show that the magnitude and temporal variability of primary productivity and modeled carbon export are modulated by the intensity and duration of vertical mixing events. BATS, with a more dynamic physical environment, has winter mixed-layer depths on average 80 m deeper than ESTOC and is characterized by pulses of enhanced productivity and export. Our model demonstrates the influence of hydrography on export attenuation through (i) more stable water column dynamics at ESTOC that increase particle remineralization time scales and weaken export strength at ESTOC compared to BATS; and (ii) higher water temperatures at BATS in the mesopelagic between 200 and 500 m that increase remineralization rates compared to ESTOC. This results in reduced differences in export ratios within the mesopelagic between both stations that is confirmed by observations. Strengthening remineralization through (i) adding zooplankton feeding on detritus and (ii) increasing bacterial remineralization rates decrease export at all depths at both stations, and increase the modeled difference in 200 m export ratios between BATS and ESTOC from 7% to 17%, a difference that is still much smaller than observed. While we could demonstrate the skill of our model in testing the mechanisms that could lead to differences in regional carbon export, our results indicate that hydrography-driven residence times, zooplankton feeding on detritus and enhanced bacterial remineralization rates alone are insufficient in driving export ratio differences between BATS and ESTOC. On the other hand, modeled export proved to be highly sensitive to prescribed particle sinking speeds. Thus, community and site dependent processes that lead to variations in particle sinking speed and remineralization, together with potential differences in vertical migration by zooplankton and horizontal transport, may be additional processes explaining the observed differences in export ratios at BATS and ESTOC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102380
JournalProgress in Oceanography
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020


  • BATS
  • Bacterial remineralization
  • Carbon export
  • Detritus feeding
  • Model algorithms
  • Subtropical gyre

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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