Publications

2016
Cartapanis O, Bianchi D, Jaccard SL, Galbraith ED. Global pulses of organic carbon burial in deep-sea sediments during glacial maxima. Nature communications [Internet]. 2016;7. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The burial of organic carbon in marine sediments removes carbon dioxide from the ocean–atmosphere pool, provides energy to the deep biosphere, and on geological timescales drives the oxygenation of the atmosphere. Here we quantify natural variations in the burial of organic carbon in deep-sea sediments over the last glacial cycle. Using a new data compilation of hundreds of sediment cores, we show that the accumulation rate of organic carbon in the deep sea was consistently higher (50%) during glacial maxima than during interglacials. The spatial pattern and temporal progression of the changes suggest that enhanced nutrient supply to parts of the surface ocean contributed to the glacial burial pulses, with likely additional contributions from more efficient transfer of organic matter to the deep sea and better preservation of organic matter due to reduced oxygen exposure. These results demonstrate a pronounced climate sensitivity for this global carbon cycle sink.

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2015
Galbraith ED, Dunne JP, Gnanadesikan A, Slater RD, Sarmiento JL, Dufour CO, de Souza GF, Bianchi D, Claret M, Rodgers KB, et al. Complex functionality with minimal computation: Promise and pitfalls of reduced-tracer ocean biogeochemistry models. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems [Internet]. 2015;7 (4) :2012–2028. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Earth System Models increasingly include ocean biogeochemistry models in order to predict changes in ocean carbon storage, hypoxia, and biological productivity under climate change. However, state-of-the-art ocean biogeochemical models include many advected tracers, that significantly increase the computational resources required, forcing a trade-off with spatial resolution. Here, we compare a state-of-the art model with 30 prognostic tracers (TOPAZ) with two reduced-tracer models, one with 6 tracers (BLING), and the other with 3 tracers (miniBLING). The reduced-tracer models employ parameterized, implicit biological functions, which nonetheless capture many of the most important processes resolved by TOPAZ. All three are embedded in the same coupled climate model. Despite the large difference in tracer number, the absence of tracers for living organic matter is shown to have a minimal impact on the transport of nutrient elements, and the three models produce similar mean annual preindustrial distributions of macronutrients, oxygen, and carbon. Significant differences do exist among the models, in particular the seasonal cycle of biomass and export production, but it does not appear that these are necessary consequences of the reduced tracer number. With increasing CO2, changes in dissolved oxygen and anthropogenic carbon uptake are very similar across the different models. Thus, while the reduced-tracer models do not explicitly resolve the diversity and internal dynamics of marine ecosystems, we demonstrate that such models are applicable to a broad suite of major biogeochemical concerns, including anthropogenic change. These results are very promising for the further development and application of reduced-tracer biogeochemical models that incorporate “sub-ecosystem-scale” parameterizations.

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Galbraith ED, Kwon EY, Bianchi D, Hain MP, Sarmiento JL. The impact of atmospheric pCO2 on carbon isotope ratios of the atmosphere and ocean. Global Biogeochemical Cycles [Internet]. 2015;29 (3) :307–324. Publisher's VersionAbstract

It is well known that the equilibration timescale for the isotopic ratios 13C/12C and 14C/12C in the ocean mixed layer is on the order of a decade, 2 orders of magnitude slower than for oxygen. Less widely appreciated is the fact that the equilibration timescale is quite sensitive to the speciation of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) in the mixed layer, scaling linearly with the ratio DIC/CO2, which varies inversely with atmospheric pCO2. Although this effect is included in models that resolve the role of carbon speciation in air-sea exchange, its role is often unrecognized, and it is not commonly considered in the interpretation of carbon isotope observations. Here we use a global three-dimensional ocean model to estimate the redistribution of the carbon isotopic ratios between the atmosphere and ocean due solely to variations in atmospheric pCO2. Under Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) pCO2, atmospheric Δ14C is increased by ≈30‰ due to the speciation change, all else being equal, raising the surface reservoir age by about 250 years throughout most of the ocean. For 13C, enhanced surface disequilibrium under LGM pCO2 causes the upper ocean, atmosphere, and North Atlantic Deep Water δ13C to become at least 0.2‰ higher relative to deep waters ventilated by the Southern Ocean. Conversely, under high pCO2, rapid equilibration greatly decreases isotopic disequilibrium. As a result, during geological periods of high pCO2, vertical δ13C gradients may have been greatly weakened as a direct chemical consequence of the high pCO2, masquerading as very well ventilated or biologically dead Strangelove Oceans. The ongoing anthropogenic rise of pCO2 is accelerating the equilibration of the carbon isotopes in the ocean, lowering atmospheric Δ14C and weakening δ13C gradients within the ocean to a degree that is similar to the traditional fossil fuel “Suess” effect.

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    Cabré A, Marinov I, Bernardello R, Bianchi D. Oxygen minimum zones in the tropical Pacific across CMIP5 models: mean state differences and climate change trends. Biogeosciences Discussions [Internet]. 2015;12 (8). Publisher's VersionAbstract

     We analyse simulations of the Pacific Ocean oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) from 11 Earth system model contributions to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5, focusing on the mean state and climate change projections. The simulations tend to overestimate the volume of the OMZs, especially in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere. Compared to observations, five models introduce incorrect meridional asymmetries in the distribution of oxygen including larger southern OMZ and weaker northern OMZ, due to interhemispheric biases in intermediate water mass ventilation. Seven models show too deep an extent of the tropical hypoxia compared to observations, stemming from a deficient equatorial ventilation in the upper ocean, combined with too large a biologically driven downward flux of particulate organic carbon at depth, caused by particle export from the euphotic layer that is too high and remineralization in the upper ocean that is too weak.  At interannual timescales, the dynamics of oxygen in the eastern tropical Pacific OMZ is dominated by biological consumption and linked to natural variability in the Walker circulation. However, under the climate change scenario RCP8.5, all simulations yield small and discrepant changes in oxygen concentration at mid depths in the tropical Pacific by the end of the 21st century due to an almost perfect compensation between warming-related decrease in oxygen saturation and decrease in biological oxygen utilization. Climate change projections are at odds with recent observations that show decreasing oxygen levels at mid depths in the tropical Pacific. Out of the OMZs, all the CMIP5 models predict a decrease of oxygen over most of the surface and deep ocean at low latitudes and over all depths at high latitudes due to an overall slow-down of ventilation and increased temperature.

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    Babbin AR, Bianchi D, Jayakumar A, Ward BB. Rapid nitrous oxide cycling in the suboxic ocean. Science [Internet]. 2015;348 (6239) :1127–1129. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Nitrous oxide (N2O) is a powerful greenhouse gas and a major cause of stratospheric ozone depletion, yet its sources and sinks remain poorly quantified in the oceans. We used isotope tracers to directly measure N2O reduction rates in the eastern tropical North Pacific. Because of incomplete denitrification, N2O cycling rates are an order of magnitude higher than predicted by current models in suboxic regions, and the spatial distribution suggests strong dependence on both organic carbon and dissolved oxygen concentrations. Furthermore, N2O turnover is 20 times higher than the net atmospheric efflux. The rapid rate of this cycling coupled to an expected expansion of suboxic ocean waters implies future increases in N2O emissions.

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    2014
    Bianchi D, Babbin AR, Galbraith ED. Enhancement of anammox by the excretion of diel vertical migrators. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [Internet]. 2014;111 (44) :15653–15658. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Measurements show that anaerobic ammonium oxidation with nitrite (anammox) is a major pathway of fixed nitrogen removal in the anoxic zones of the open ocean. Anammox requires a source of ammonium, which under anoxic conditions could be supplied by the breakdown of sinking organic matter via heterotrophic denitrification. However, at many locations where anammox is measured, denitrification rates are small or undetectable. Alternative sources of ammonium have been proposed to explain this paradox, for example through dissimilatory reduction of nitrate to ammonium and transport from anoxic sediments. However, the relevance of these sources in open-ocean anoxic zones is debated. Here, we bring to attention an additional source of ammonium, namely, the daytime excretion by zooplankton and micronekton migrating from the surface to anoxic waters. We use a synthesis of acoustic data to show that, where anoxic waters occur within the water column, most migrators spend the daytime within them. Although migrators export only a small fraction of primary production from the surface, they focus excretion within a confined depth range of anoxic water where particle input is small. Using a simple biogeochemical model, we suggest that, at those depths, the source of ammonium from organisms undergoing diel vertical migrations could exceed the release from particle remineralization, enhancing in situ anammox rates. The contribution of this previously overlooked process, and the numerous uncertainties surrounding it, call for further efforts to evaluate the role of animals in oxygen minimum zone biogeochemistry.

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    2013
    Galbraith ED, Kienast M, others. The acceleration of oceanic denitrification during deglacial warming. Nature Geoscience [Internet]. 2013;6 (7) :579–584. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Over much of the ocean’s surface, productivity and growth are limited by a scarcity of bioavailable nitrogen. Sedimentary δ15N records spanning the last deglaciation suggest marked shifts in the nitrogen cycle during this time, but the quantification of these changes has been hindered by the complexity of nitrogen isotope cycling. Here we present a database of δ15N in sediments throughout the world’s oceans, including 2,329 modern seafloor samples, and 76 timeseries spanning the past 30,000 years. We show that the δ15N values of modern seafloor sediments are consistent with values predicted by our knowledge of nitrogen cycling in the water column. Despite many local deglacial changes, the globally averaged δ15N values of sinking organic matter were similar during the Last Glacial Maximum and Early Holocene. Considering the global isotopic mass balance, we explain these observations with the following deglacial history of nitrogen inventory processes. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the nitrogen cycle was near steady state. During the deglaciation, denitrification in the pelagic water column accelerated. The flooding of continental shelves subsequently increased denitrification at the seafloor, and denitrification reached near steady-state conditions again in the Early Holocene. We use a recent parameterization of seafloor denitrification to estimate a 30–120% increase in benthic denitrification between 15,000 and 8,000 years ago. Based on the similarity of globally averaged δ15N values during the Last Glacial Maximum and Early Holocene, we infer that pelagic denitrification must have increased by a similar amount between the two steady states.

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    Gnanadesikan A, Bianchi D, Pradal M-A. Critical role for mesoscale eddy diffusion in supplying oxygen to hypoxic ocean waters. Geophysical Research Letters [Internet]. 2013;40 (19) :5194–5198. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Estimates of the oceanic lateral eddy diffusion coefficient Aredi vary by more than an order of magnitude, ranging from less than a few hundred m2/s to thousands of m2/s. This uncertainty has first-order implications for the intensity of oceanic hypoxia, which is poorly simulated by the current generation of Earth System Models. Using satellite-based estimate of oxygen consumption in hypoxic waters to estimate the required diffusion coefficient for these waters gives a value of order 1000 m2/s. Varying Aredi across a suite of Earth System Models yields a broadly consistent result given a thermocline diapycnal diffusion coefficient of 1 × 10−5 m2/s.

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    Bianchi D, Stock C, Galbraith ED, Sarmiento JL. Diel vertical migration: Ecological controls and impacts on the biological pump in a one-dimensional ocean model. Global Biogeochemical Cycles [Internet]. 2013;27 (2) :478–491. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Diel vertical migration (DVM) of zooplankton and micronekton is widespread in the ocean and forms a fundamental component of the biological pump, but is generally overlooked in global models of the Earth system. We develop a parameterization of DVM in the ocean and integrate it with a size-structured NPZD model. We assess the model's ability to recreate ecosystem and DVM patterns at three well-observed Pacific sites, ALOHA, K2, and EQPAC, and use it to estimate the impact of DVM on marine ecosystems and biogeochemical dynamics. Our model includes the following: (1) a representation of migration dynamics in response to food availability and light intensity; (2) a representation of the digestive and metabolic processes that decouple zooplankton feeding from excretion, egestion, and respiration; and (3) a light-dependent parameterization of visual predation on zooplankton. The model captures the first-order patterns in plankton biomass and productivity across the biomes, including the biomass of migrating organisms. We estimate that realistic migratory populations sustain active fluxes to the mesopelagic zone equivalent to between 15% and 40% of the particle export and contribute up to half of the total respiration within the layers affected by migration. The localized active transport has important consequences for the cycling of oxygen, nutrients, and carbon. We highlight the importance of decoupling zooplankton feeding and respiration and excretion with depth for capturing the impact of migration on the redistribution of carbon and nutrients in the upper ocean.

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    Bianchi D, Galbraith ED, Carozza DA, Mislan KAS, Stock CA. Intensification of open-ocean oxygen depletion by vertically migrating animals. Nature Geoscience [Internet]. 2013;6 (7) :545–548. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Throughout the ocean, countless small animals swim to depth in the daytime, presumably to seek refuge from large predators12. These animals return to the surface at night to feed12. This substantial diel vertical migration can result in the transfer of significant amounts of carbon and nutrients from the surface to depth34567. However, its consequences on ocean chemistry at the global scale have remained uncertain89. Here, we determine the depths of these diel migrations in the global ocean using a global array of backscatter data from acoustic Doppler current profilers, collected between 1990 and 2011. We show that the depth of diel migration follows coherent large-scale patterns. We find that migration depth is greater where subsurface oxygen concentrations are high, such that seawater oxygen concentration is the best single predictor of migration depth at the global scale. In oxygen minimum zone areas, migratory animals generally descend as far as the upper margins of the low-oxygen waters. Using an ocean biogeochemical model coupled to a general circulation model, we show that by focusing oxygen consumption in poorly ventilated regions of the upper ocean, diel vertical migration intensifies oxygen depletion in the upper margin of oxygen minimum zones. We suggest that future changes in the extent of oxygen minimum zones could alter the migratory depths of marine organisms, with consequences for marine biogeochemistry, food webs and fisheries.

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    Duteil O, Koeve W, Oschlies A, Bianchi D, Kriest I, Galbraith E, Matear R. A new estimate of ocean oxygen utilization points to a reduced rate of respiration in the ocean interior. Biogeosciences [Internet]. 2013;10 :7723–7738. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    The Apparent Oxygen Utilisation (AOU) is a classical measure of the amount of oxygen respired in the ocean's interior. We show that AOU systematically overestimates True Oxygen Utilisation (TOU) in 6 coupled circulation-biogeochemical ocean models. This is due to atmosphere–ocean oxygen disequilibria in the subduction regions, consistent with previous work. We develop a simple, new, observationally-based approach which we call Evaluated Oxygen Utilisation (EOU). In this approach, we take into account the impact of the upper ocean oxygen disequilibria into the interior, considering that transport takes place predominantly along isopycnal surfaces. The EOU approximates the TOU with less than half of the bias of AOU in all 6 models despite large differences in the physical and biological components of the models. Applying the EOU approach to a global observational dataset yields an oxygen consumption rate 25% lower than that derived from AOU-based estimates, for a given ventilation rate.

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    2012
    Bianchi D, Dunne JP, Sarmiento JL, Galbraith ED. Data-based estimates of suboxia, denitrification, and N2O production in the ocean and their sensitivities to dissolved O2. Global Biogeochemical Cycles. 2012;26 (2).Abstract

    Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) are major sites of fixed nitrogen removal from the open ocean. However, commonly used gridded data sets such as the World Ocean Atlas (WOA) tend to overestimate the concentration of O2 compared to measurements in grids where O2 falls in the suboxic range (O2 < 2–10 mmol m−3), thereby underestimating the extent of O2 depletion in OMZs. We evaluate the distribution of the OMZs by (1) mapping high-quality oxygen measurements from the WOCE program, and (2) by applying an empirical correction to the gridded WOA based on in situ observations. The resulting suboxic volumes are a factor 3 larger than in the uncorrected gridded WOA. We combine the new oxygen data sets with estimates of global export and simple models of remineralization to estimate global denitrification and N2O production. We obtain a removal of fixed nitrogen of 70 ± 50 Tg year−1 in the open ocean and 198 ± 64 Tg year−1 in the sediments, and a global N2O production of 6.2 ± 3.2 Tg year−1. Our results (1) reconcile water column denitrification rates based on global oxygen distributions with previous estimates based on nitrogen isotopes, (2) revise existing estimates of sediment denitrification down by 1/3d through the use of spatially explicit fluxes, and (3) provide independent evidence supporting the idea of a historically balanced oceanic nitrogen cycle. These estimates are most sensitive to uncertainties in the global export production, the oxygen threshold for suboxic processes, and the efficiency of particle respiration under suboxic conditions. Ocean deoxygenation, an expected response to anthropogenic climate change, could increase denitrification by 14 Tg year−1 of nitrogen per 1 mmol m−3 of oxygen reduction if uniformly distributed, while leaving N2O production relatively unchanged.

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    Duteil O, Koeve W, Oschlies A, Aumont O, Bianchi D, Bopp L, Galbraith E, Matear R, Moore JK, Sarmiento JL, et al. Preformed and regenerated phosphate in ocean general circulation models: can right total concentrations be wrong?. Biogeosciences (BG) [Internet]. 2012;9 :1797–1807. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Phosphate distributions simulated by seven state-of-the-art biogeochemical ocean circulation models are evaluated against observations of global ocean nutrient distributions. The biogeochemical models exhibit different structural complexities, ranging from simple nutrient-restoring to multi-nutrient NPZD type models. We evaluate the simulations using the observed volume distribution of phosphate. The errors in these simulated volume class distributions are significantly larger when preformed phosphate (or regenerated phosphate) rather than total phosphate is considered. Our analysis reveals that models can achieve similarly good fits to observed total phosphate distributions for a~very different partitioning into preformed and regenerated nutrient components. This has implications for the strength and potential climate sensitivity of the simulated biological carbon pump. We suggest complementing the use of total nutrient distributions for assessing model skill by an evaluation of the respective preformed and regenerated nutrient components.

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    2011
    Galbraith ED, Kwon EY, Gnanadesikan A, Rodgers KB, Griffies SM, Bianchi D, Sarmiento JL, Dunne JP, Simeon J, Slater RD, et al. Climate variability and radiocarbon in the CM2Mc Earth System Model. Journal of Climate [Internet]. 2011;24 (16) :4230–4254. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    The distribution of radiocarbon (14C) in the ocean and atmosphere has fluctuated on time scales ranging from seasons to millennia. It is thought that these fluctuations partly reflect variability in the climate system, offering a rich potential source of information to help understand mechanisms of past climate change. Here, a long simulation with a new, coupled model is used to explore the mechanisms that redistribute 14C within the earth system on interannual to centennial time scales. The model, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Climate Model version 2 (GFDL CM2) with Modular Ocean Model version 4p1(MOM4p1) at coarse-resolution (CM2Mc), is a lower-resolution version of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory’s CM2M model, uses no flux adjustments, and is run here with a simple prognostic ocean biogeochemistry model including 14C. The atmospheric 14C and radiative boundary conditions are held constant so that the oceanic distribution of 14C is only a function of internal climate variability. The simulation displays previously described relationships between tropical sea surface 14C and the model equivalents of the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and Indonesian Throughflow. Sea surface 14C variability also arises from fluctuations in the circulations of the subarctic Pacific and Southern Ocean, including North Pacific decadal variability and episodic ventilation events in the Weddell Sea that are reminiscent of the Weddell Polynya of 1974–76. Interannual variability in the air–sea balance of 14C is dominated by exchange within the belt of intense “Southern Westerly” winds, rather than at the convective locations where the surface 14C is most variable. Despite significant interannual variability, the simulated impact on air–sea exchange is an order of magnitude smaller than the recorded atmospheric 14C variability of the past millennium. This result partly reflects the importance of variability in the production rate of 14C in determining atmospheric 14C but may also reflect an underestimate of natural climate variability, particularly in the Southern Westerly winds.

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    Rodgers KB, Mikaloff-Fletcher SE, Bianchi D, Beaulieu C, Galbraith ED, Gnanadesikan A, Hogg AG, Iudicone D, Lintner BR, Naegler T, et al. Interhemispheric gradient of atmospheric radiocarbon reveals natural variability of Southern Ocean winds. Climate of the Past [Internet]. 2011;7 (4) :1123–1138. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    Tree ring Δ14C data (Reimer et al., 2004; McCormac et al., 2004) indicate that atmospheric Δ14C varied on multi-decadal to centennial timescales, in both hemispheres, over the period between AD 950 and 1830. The Northern and Southern Hemispheric Δ14C records display similar variability, but from the data alone is it not clear whether these variations are driven by the production of 14C in the stratosphere (Stuiver and Quay, 1980) or by perturbations to exchanges between carbon reservoirs (Siegenthaler et al., 1980). As the sea-air flux of 14CO2 has a clear maximum in the open ocean regions of the Southern Ocean, relatively modest perturbations to the winds over this region drive significant perturbations to the interhemispheric gradient. In this study, model simulations are used to show that Southern Ocean winds are likely a main driver of the observed variability in the interhemispheric gradient over AD 950–1830, and further, that this variability may be larger than the Southern Ocean wind trends that have been reported for recent decades (notably 1980–2004). This interpretation also implies that there may have been a significant weakening of the winds over the Southern Ocean within a few decades of AD 1375, associated with the transition between the Medieval Climate Anomaly and the Little Ice Age. The driving forces that could have produced such a shift in the winds at the Medieval Climate Anomaly to Little Ice Age transition remain unknown. Our process-focused suite of perturbation experiments with models raises the possibility that the current generation of coupled climate and earth system models may underestimate the natural background multi-decadal- to centennial-timescale variations in the winds over the Southern Ocean.

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    2010
    Bianchi D, Sarmiento JL, Gnanadesikan A, Key RM, Schlosser P, Newton R. Low helium flux from the mantle inferred from simulations of oceanic helium isotope data. Earth and Planetary Science Letters [Internet]. 2010;297 (3) :379–386. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    The high 3He/4He isotopic ratio of oceanic helium relative to the atmosphere has long been recognized as the signature of mantle 3He outgassing from the Earth's interior. The outgassing flux of helium is frequently used to normalize estimates of chemical fluxes of elements from the solid Earth, and provides a strong constraint to models of mantle degassing. Here we use a suite of ocean general circulation models and helium isotope data obtained by the World Ocean Circulation Experiment to constrain the flux of helium from the mantle to the oceans. Our results suggest that the currently accepted flux is overestimated by a factor of 2. We show that a flux of 527 ± 102 mol year− 1 is required for ocean general circulation models that produce distributions of ocean ventilation tracers such as radiocarbon and chlorofluorocarbons that match observations. This new estimate calls for a reevaluation of the degassing fluxes of elements that are currently tied to the helium fluxes, including noble gases and carbon dioxide.

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    2006
    Bianchi D, Zavatarelli M, Pinardi N, Capozzi R, Capotondi L, Corselli C, Masina S. Simulations of ecosystem response during the sapropel S1 deposition event. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology [Internet]. 2006;235 (1) :265–287. Publisher's VersionAbstract

    A one-dimensional ecosystem numerical model is used to simulate the ecosystem changes that could have occurred in the open ocean areas of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea during the Climatic Optimum interval (9500–6000 B.P., Mercone et al. [Mercone, D., Thomson, J., Croudace, I.W., Siani, G., Paterne, M., Troelstra, S., 2000. Duration of S1, the most recent sapropel in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, as indicated by accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon and geochemical evidence. Paleoceanography 15, 336–347]). In this period the S1 sapropel was deposited. S1 is the most recent sapropel in the succession of organic carbon-rich layers intercalated in normal Neogene sedimentary sequences. Different theories have been invoked in order to explain the deposition of this peculiar layer. Our simulations seem to indicate that the modified thermohaline circulation, supplying oxygen only in the first 500 m of the water column, is responsible for the sapropel deposition when higher productivity is allowed in the euphotic zone. The model shows the importance in this process of bacteria that consume oxygen by decomposing the Particulate Organic Matter (POM) produced in the upper water column. The sinking velocity of POM partially regulates the timescale of the occurrence of anoxia at the bottom and in the whole water column, allowing the relatively rapid onset of sapropel deposition.

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