The Southern California Bight (SCB) is an upwelling-dominated, open embayment on the U.S. West Coast and receives discharges of anthropogenically-enhanced freshwater, nutrients, carbon, and other materials. These inputs include direct point sources discharged from wastewater treatment (WWT) plants via ocean outfalls and point, non-point, and natural sources discharged via coastal rivers. We assembled a daily time series over 1971-2017 of discharges from large WWT plants ≥ 50 million gallon per day (MGD) and 1997-2017 from small WWT plants and coastal rivers. Constituents include nitrogen, phosphorus, organic carbon, alkalinity, iron, and silica. Data from research studies, several government and non-government agency databases containing discharge monitoring reports, river flow gauges, and other collateral information were compiled to produce this dataset. Predictive models and expert analysis addressed unmonitored sources and data gaps. The time series of terrestrial discharge and fluxes are provided with location of coastal discharge point or tributary. The data are deposited in a repository found in Sutula et al. .
The remineralization depth of sinking organic particles controls the efficiency of the biological carbon pump by setting the sequestration timescale of remineralized carbon in the ocean interior. Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) have been identified as regions of elevated particle transfer and efficient carbon sequestration at depth, but direct measurements remain sparse in these regions and only provide snapshots of the particle flux. Here, we use remineralization tracers to reconstruct time-mean particle flux profiles in the OMZs of the Eastern Tropical Pacific and the Arabian Sea. Compared to the surrounding tropical waters, both OMZs exhibit slow flux attenuation between 100 and 1000 m where suboxic waters reside, and sequester carbon beneath 1000 m more than twice as efficiently. Using a mechanistic model of particle sinking, remineralization, and disaggregation, we show that three different mechanisms might explain the shape of the OMZ flux profiles: (i) a significant slow-down of remineralization when carbon oxidation transitions from aerobic to anaerobic respiration (e.g., denitrification); (ii) the exclusion of zooplankton that mediate disaggregation of large particles from suboxic waters, and (iii) the limitation of remineralization by the diffusive supply of oxidants (oxygen and nitrate) into large particles. We show that each mechanism leaves a unique signature in the size distribution of particles, suggesting that observations with optical instruments such as Underwater Vision Profilers hold great promise for understanding the drivers of efficient carbon transfer though suboxic water columns. In turn, this will allow more accurate prediction of future changes in carbon sequestration as the ocean loses oxygen in a warming climate.
Abstract Coastal winds in the California Current System (CCS) are credited with the high productivity of its planktonic ecosystem and the shallow hypoxic and corrosive waters that structure diverse macrofaunal habitats. These winds thus are considered a leading mediator of climate change impacts in the CCS and other Eastern Boundary Upwelling systems. We use an eddy-permitting regional model to downscale the response of the CCS to three of the major distinct climate changes commonly projected by global Earth System Models: regional winds, ocean warming and stratification, and remote water chemical properties. An increase in alongshore winds intensifies spring upwelling across the CCS, but this response is muted by increased stratification, especially during summer. Despite the seasonal shift in regional wind-driven upwelling, basin-scale changes are the decisive factor in the response of marine ecosystem properties including temperature, nutrients, productivity, and oxygen. Downscaled temperature increases and dissolved oxygen decreases are broadly consistent with coarse resolution Earth System Models, and these projected changes are large and well constrained across the models, whereas nutrient and productivity changes are small compared to the intermodel spread. These results imply that global models with poor resolution of coastal processes nevertheless yield important information about the dominant climate impacts on coastal ecosystems.
Subsurface-intensified anticyclones are ubiquitous in the ocean, yet their impact on the large-scale transport of heat, salt and chemical tracers is poorly understood. These submesoscale coherent vortices (SCVs) can trap and advect waters thousands of kilometers away from the formation region, providing a transport pathway that is unresolved by low-resolution Earth System Models. However, knowledge of the importance of these eddies for the large scale circulation is hindered by the lack of systematic observations. Here, we take advantage of the global network of Argo floats to identify occurrences of these eddies, which appear as weakly stratified anomalous water masses with Gaussian-shaped vertical structures. We develop a general algorithm to detect subsurface eddies that have propagated away from their source region, and apply it to the database of Argo float profiles, resulting in roughly 4000 detections from more than 20 years of observations. We further group detections into regional populations to identify hot-spots of generation and mechanisms of formation. Analysis of regional SCV statistics reveals important sites of SCV generation in Eastern Boundary Upwelling Systems, marginal sea overflows, and mode water formation regions along major open-ocean fronts. Because of the heat and salt anomaly contained within their cores, SCV could leave a significant imprint on the hydrographic properties of water masses in regions of high SCV density.
In the California Current, subduction by mesoscale eddies removes nutrients from the coastal surface layer, counteracting upwelling and quenching productivity. Submesoscale eddies are also ubiquitous in the California Current, but their biogeochemical role has not been quantified yet in the region. Here, we present results from a physical-biogeochemical model of the California Current run at a resolution of 1 km, sufficient to represent submesoscale dynamics. By comparing it with a coarser simulation run at 4 km resolution, we demonstrate the importance of submesoscale currents for the seasonal cycles of nutrients and organic matter and highlight the existence of different regimes along a cross-shore gradient. In the productive coastal region, submesoscale currents intensify quenching and reduce productivity, further counteracting wind-driven upwelling. In the offshore oligotrophic region, submesoscale currents enhance the upward transport of nutrients, fueling a dramatic increase in new production. These effects are modulated by seasonality, strengthening near the coast during upwelling and offshore in wintertime. The intensification of the transport by submesoscale eddies drives an adjustment of the planktonic ecosystem, with a reduction of plankton biomass, productivity, and size near the coast and an increase offshore. In contrast, organic matter export by sinking particles and subduction of detritus and living cells are enhanced nearly everywhere. Similar processes are likely important in other regions characterized by seasonal upwelling, for example, other eastern boundary upwelling systems.
It is well-established that phytoplankton growth can be limited by the vanishingly low concentrations of dissolved iron found in large areas of the open ocean. However, the availability of iron is not typically considered an important factor in the ecology of marine animals, including fish. Here we compile observations to show that the iron contents of lower trophic level organisms in iron-limited regions can be an order of magnitude less than the iron contents of most fish. Although this shortfall could theoretically be overcome if iron assimilation rates were very high in fish, observations suggest this is not the case, consistent with the high recommended iron contents for mariculture feed. In addition, we highlight two occurrences among fish living in iron-poor regions that would conceivably be beneficial given iron scarcity: the absence of hemoglobin in Antarctic icefish, and the anadromous life history of salmon. Based on these multiple lines of evidence, we suggest that the iron content of lower trophic level organisms can be insufficient to support many fish species throughout their life cycles in iron-poor oceanic regions. We then use a global satellite-based estimate of fishing effort to show that relatively little fishing activity occurs in High Nitrate Low Chlorophyll (HNLC) regions, the most readily-identified iron-poor domains of the ocean, particularly when compared to satellite-based estimates of primary production and the observed mesozooplankton biomass in those waters. The low fishing effort is consistent with a low abundance of epipelagic fish in iron-limited regions, though other factors are likely to contribute as well. Our results imply that the importance of iron nutrition extends well beyond plankton and plays a role in the ecology of large marine animals.
While the physical dimensions of climate change are now routinely assessed through multimodel intercomparisons, projected impacts on the global ocean ecosystem generally rely on individual models with a specific set of assumptions. To address these single-model limitations, we present standardized ensemble projections from six global marine ecosystem models forced with two Earth system models and four emis- sion scenarios with and without fishing. We derive average biomass trends and associated uncertainties across the marine food web. Without fishing, mean global animal biomass decreased by 5% (±4% SD) under low emissions and 17% (±11% SD) under high emissions by 2100, with an average 5% decline for every 1 °C of warming. Projected biomass declines were primarily driven by increasing temperature and decreasing primary production, and were more pronounced at higher trophic levels, a process known as trophic amplification. Fishing did not substantially alter the effects of climate change. Considerable regional variation featured strong biomass increases at high latitudes and de- creases at middle to low latitudes, with good model agreement on the direction of change but variable magnitude. Uncertainties due to vari- ations in marine ecosystem and Earth system models were similar. Ensemble projections performed well compared with empirical data, emphasizing the benefits of multimodel inference to project future outcomes. Our results indicate that global ocean animal biomass con- sistently declines with climate change, and that these impacts are am- plified at higher trophic levels. Next steps for model development include dynamic scenarios of fishing, cumulative human impacts, and the effects of management measures on future ocean biomass trends.
Aim: Climate change will reshape marine ecosystems over the 21st century through diverse and complex mechanisms that are difficult to assess quantitatively. Here, we characterize expectations for how marine community biomass will respond to the energetic consequences of changes in primary production and temperature‐depend‐ ent metabolic rates, under a range of fishing/conservation scenarios.
Location: Global ocean.
Time period: 1950–2100.
Major taxa studied: Commercially harvested marine ectotherms (‘fish’).
Methods: We use a size‐structured macroecological model of the marine ecosystem, coupled with a catch model that allows for calibration with global historical data and simulation of fishing. We examine the four energetic mechanisms that, within the model framework, determine the community response to climate change: net pri‐ mary production, phytoplankton cell size, and the temperature dependencies of growth and natural mortality.
Results: Climate change decreases the modelled global fish community biomass by as much as 30% by 2100. This results from a diminished energy supply to upper trophic levels as photosynthesis becomes more nutrient limited and phytoplankton cells shrink, and from a temperature‐driven increase of natural mortality that, together, overwhelm the effect of accelerated somatic growth rates. Ocean circulation changes drive regional variations of primary production, producing patterns of winners and los‐ ers that largely compensate each other when averaged globally, whereas decreasing phytoplankton size drives weaker but more uniformly negative changes. The climate impacts are similar across the range of conservation scenarios but are slightly amplified in the strong conservation scenarios owing to the greater role of natural mortality. Main conclusions: The spatial pattern of climate impacts is mostly determined by changes in primary production. The overall decline of community biomass is attributed to a temperature‐driven increase of natural mortality, alongside an overall decrease in phytoplankton size, despite faster somatic growth. Our results highlight the importance of the competition between accelerated growth and mortality in a warming ocean.
Horizontal transport at the boundaries of the subtropical gyres plays a crucial role in providing the nutrients that fuel gyre primary productivity, the heat that helps restratify the surface mixed layer, and the dissolved inorganic carbon that influences air‐sea carbon exchange. Mesoscale eddies may be an important component of these horizontal transports; however, previous studies have not quantified the horizontal tracer transport due to eddies across the subtropical gyre boundaries. Here we assess the physical mechanisms that control the horizontal transport of mass, heat, nutrients, and carbon across the North Pacific and North Atlantic subtropical gyre boundaries using the eddy‐rich ocean component of a climate model (Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model version 2.6) coupled to a simple biogeochemical model (mini‐BLING). Our results suggest that horizontal transport across the gyre boundaries supplies a substantial amount of mass and tracers to the ventilated layer of both Northern Hemisphere subtropical gyres, with the Kuroshio and Gulf Stream acting as main exchange gateways. Mass, heat, and dissolved inorganic carbon supply is principally driven by the time‐mean circulation, whereas nutrient transport differs markedly from the other tracers, as nutrients are mainly supplied to both subtropical gyres by downgradient eddy mixing across gyre boundaries. A budget analysis further reveals that the horizontal nutrient transport, combining the roles of both mean and eddy components, is responsible for more than three quarters of the total nutrient supply into the subtropical gyres, surpassing a recent estimate based on a coarse‐resolution model and thus further highlighting the importance of horizontal nutrient transport.
Global observations show that the ocean lost approximately 2% of its oxygen inventory over the past five decades, with important implications for marine ecosystems. The rate of change varies regionally, with northwest Atlantic coastal waters showing a long-term drop that vastly outpaces the global and North Atlantic basin mean deoxygenation rates. However, past work has been unable to differentiate the role of large-scale climate forcing from that of local processes. Here, we use hydrographic evidence to show that a Labrador Current retreat is playing a key role in the deoxygenation on the northwest Atlantic shelf. A high-resolution global coupled climate–biogeochemistry model reproduces the observed decline of saturation oxygen concentrations in the region, driven by a retreat of the equatorward-flowing Labrador Current and an associated shift towards more oxygen-poor subtropical waters on the shelf. The dynamical changes underlying the shift in shelf water properties are correlated with a slowdown in the simulated Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Our results provide strong evidence that a major, centennial-scale change of the Labrador Current is underway, and highlight the potential for ocean dynamics to impact coastal deoxygenation over the coming century.
In ocean waters, anaerobic microbial respiration should be confined to the anoxic waters found in coastal regions and tropical oxygen minimum zones, where it is energetically favourable. However, recent molecular and geochemical evidence has pointed to a much broader distribution of denitrifying and sulfate-reducing microbes. Anaerobic metabolisms are thought to thrive in microenvironments that develop inside sinking organic aggregates, but the global distribution and geochemical significance of these microenvironments is poorly understood. Here, we develop a new size-resolved particle model to predict anaerobic respiration from aggregate properties and seawater chemistry. Constrained by observations of the size spectrum of sinking particles, the model predicts that denitrification and sulfate reduction can be sustained throughout vast, hypoxic expanses of the ocean, and could explain the trace metal enrichment observed in particles due to sulfide precipitation. Globally, the expansion of the anaerobic niche due to particle microenvironments doubles the rate of water column denitrification compared with estimates based on anoxic zones alone, and changes the sensitivity of the marine nitrogen cycle to deoxygenation in a warming climate.
Subsurface coherent eddies are well-known features of ocean circulation, but the sparsity of observations prevents an assessment of their importance for biogeochemistry. Here, we use a global eddying (0.1° ) ocean-biogeochemical model to carry out a census of subsurface coherent eddies originating from eastern boundary upwelling systems (EBUS), and quantify their biogeochemical effects as they propagate westward into the subtropical gyres. While most eddies exist for a few months, moving over distances of 100s of km, a small fraction (< 5%) of long-lived eddies propagates over distances greater than 1000km, carrying the oxygen-poor and nutrient-rich signature of EBUS into the gyre interiors. In the Pacific, transport by subsurface coherent eddies accounts for roughly 10% of the offshore transport of oxygen and nutrients in pycnocline waters. This "leakage" of subsurface waters can be a significant fraction of the transport by nutrient-rich poleward undercurrents, and may contribute to the well-known reduction of productivity by eddies in EBUS. Furthermore, at the density layer of their cores, eddies decrease climatological oxygen locally by close to 10%, thereby expanding oxygen minimum zones. Finally, eddies represent low-oxygen extreme events in otherwise oxygenated waters, increasing the area of hypoxic waters by several percent and producing dramatic short-term changes that may play an important ecological role. Capturing these non-local effects in global climate models, which typically include non-eddying oceans, would require dedicated parameterizations.
The global wild marine fish harvest increased fourfold between 1950 and a peak value near the end of the 20th century, reflecting interactions between anthropogenic and ecological forces. Here, we examine these interactions in a bio-energetically constrained, spatially and temporally resolved model of global fisheries. We conduct historical hindcasts with the model, which suggest that technological progress can explain most of the 20th century increase of fish harvest. In contrast, projections extending this rate of technological progress into the future under open access suggest a long-term decrease in harvest due to over-fishing. Climate change is predicted to gradually decrease the global fish production capacity, though our model suggests that this is of secondary importance to social and economic factors. Our study represents a novel way to integrate human-ecological interactions within a single model framework for long-term simulations.