Temporal Trends in Deep Ocean Redfield Ratios

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Science  04 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5454, pp. 831-833
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5454.831

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The Redfield ratio [carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus (C:N:P)] of particle flux to the deep ocean is a key factor in marine biogeochemical cycling. Changes in oceanic carbon sequestration have been linked to variations in the Redfield ratio on geological time scales, but this ratio generally is assumed to be constant with time in the modern ocean. However, deep-water Redfield ratios in the northern hemisphere show evidence for temporal trends over the past five decades. The North Atlantic Ocean exhibits a rising N:P ratio, which may be related to increased deposition of atmospheric nitrous oxides from anthropogenic N emissions. In the North Pacific Ocean, increasing C:N and C:P ratios are accompanied by rising remineralization rates, which suggests intensified export production. Stronger export of carbon in this region may be due to enhanced bioavailability of aeolian iron. These findings imply that the biological part of the marine carbon cycle currently is not in steady state.

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