Rapid establishment of the CO2 sink associated with Kerguelen's bloom observed during the KEOPS2/OISO20 cruise

Iron and light are the main factors limiting the biological pump of CO2 in the Southern Ocean. Iron fertilization experiments have demonstrated the potential for increased uptake of atmospheric CO2, but little is known about the evolution of fertilized environnements. This paper presents observations collected in one of the largest phytoplankton bloom of the Southern Ocean sustained by iron originating from the Kerguelen Plateau. We first complement previous studies by investigating the mechanisms that control air–sea CO2 fluxes over and downstream of the Kerguelen Plateau at the onset of the bloom based on measurements obtained in October–November 2011. These new observations show the rapid establishment of a strong CO2 sink in waters fertilized with iron as soon as vertical mixing is reduced. The magnitude of the CO2 sink was closely related to chlorophyll a and iron concentrations. Because iron concentration strongly depends on the distance from the iron source and the mode of delivery, we identified lateral advection as the main mechanism controlling air–sea CO2 fluxes downtream the Kerguelen Plateau during the growing season. In the southern part of the bloom, situated over the Plateau (iron source), the CO2 sink was stronger and spatially more homogeneous than in the plume offshore. However, we also witnessed a substantial reduction in the uptake of atmospheric CO2 over the Plateau following a strong winds event. Next, we used all the data available in this region in order to draw the seasonal evolution of air–sea CO2 fluxes. The CO2 sink is rapidly reduced during the course of the growing season, which we attribute to iron and silicic acid depletion. South of the Polar Front, where nutrients depletion is delayed, we suggest that the amplitude and duration of the CO2 sink is mainly controlled by vertical mixing. The impact of iron fertilization on air–sea CO2 fluxes is revealed by comparing the uptake of CO2 integrated over the productive season in the bloom, between 1 and 1.5 mol C m−2 yr−1, and in the iron-poor HNLC waters, where we found a typical value of 0.4 mol C m−2 yr−1. Extrapolating our results to the ice-free Southern Ocean (~50–60° S) suggests that iron fertilization of the whole area would increase the contemporay oceanic uptake of CO2 by less than 0.1 Pg C yr−1, i.e., less than 1% of the current anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

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Lo Monaco C., Metzl N., D'Ovidio F., Llort J., Ridame C. (2014). Rapid establishment of the CO2 sink associated with Kerguelen's bloom observed during the KEOPS2/OISO20 cruise. Biogeosciences Discussions. 11 (12). 17543-17578. https://doi.org/10.5194/bgd-11-17543-2014, https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00295/40611/

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