Vertical Flux of Biogenic Carbon in the Ocean: Is There Food Web Control?

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  24 May 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5265, pp. 1163-1166
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5265.1163


Models of biogenic carbon (BC) flux assume that short herbivorous food chains lead to high export, whereas complex microbial or omnivorous food webs lead to recycling and low export, and that export of BC from the euphotic zone equals new production (NP). In the Gulf of St. Lawrence, particulate organic carbon fluxes were similar during the spring phytoplankton bloom, when herbivory dominated, and during nonbloom conditions, when microbial and omnivorous food webs dominated. In contrast, NP was 1.2 to 161 times greater during the bloom than after it. Thus, neither food web structure nor NP can predict the magnitude or patterns of BC export, particularly on time scales over which the ocean is in nonequilibrium conditions.