Small Phytoplankton and Carbon Export from the Surface Ocean

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Science  09 Feb 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5813, pp. 838-840
DOI: 10.1126/science.1133471

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Autotrophic picoplankton dominate primary production over large oceanic regions but are believed to contribute relatively little to carbon export from surface layers. Using analyses of data from the equatorial Pacific Ocean and Arabian Sea, we show that the relative direct and indirect contribution of picoplankton to export is proportional to their total net primary production, despite their small size. We suggest that all primary producers, not just the large cells, can contribute to export from the surface layer of the ocean at rates proportional to their production rates.

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