Multidecadal changes in biology influence the variability of the North Atlantic carbon sink

Type Article
Date 2022-11
Language English
Author(s) Ostle Clare1, 2, Landschuetzer Peter3, 4, Edwards Martin5, 6, Johnson Martin2, 7, 8, Schmidtko Sunke9, Schuster Ute10, Watson Andrew J.10, Robinson CarolORCID2
Affiliation(s) 1 : The Marine Biological Association (MBA), The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom
2 : Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (COAS), School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, United Kingdom
3 : Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Bundesstr. 53, 20146 Hamburg, Germany
4 : Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Jacobsenstraat 1, 8400 Ostend, Belgium
5 : Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom
6 : Marine Institute, Plymouth University, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom
7 : Bantry Marine Research Station, Gearhies, Co. Cork P75 AX07, Ireland
8 : Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), Lowestoft NR33 0HT, United Kingdom
9 : GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, 24105 Kiel, Germany
10 : College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QE, United Kingdom
Source Environmental Research Letters (1748-9326) (Iop Publishing Ltd), 2022-11 , Vol. 17 , N. 11 , P. 114056 (13p.)
DOI 10.1088/1748-9326/ac9ecf
Keyword(s) multidecadal, biology, influence, variability, North Atlantic, carbon sink, warming

The North Atlantic Ocean is the most intense marine sink for anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) in the world's oceans, showing high variability and substantial changes over recent decades. However, the contribution of biology to the variability and trend of this sink is poorly understood. Here we use in situ plankton measurements, alongside observation-based sea surface CO2 data from 1982 to 2020, to investigate the biological influence on the CO2 sink. Our results demonstrate that long term variability in the CO2 sink in the North Atlantic is associated with changes in phytoplankton abundance and community structure. These data show that within the subpolar regions of the North Atlantic, phytoplankton biomass is increasing, while a decrease is observed in the subtropics, which supports model predictions of climate-driven changes in productivity. These biomass trends are synchronous with increasing temperature, changes in mixing and an increasing uptake of atmospheric CO2 in the subpolar North Atlantic. Our results highlight that phytoplankton play a significant role in the variability as well as the trends of the CO2 uptake from the atmosphere over recent decades.

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Ostle Clare, Landschuetzer Peter, Edwards Martin, Johnson Martin, Schmidtko Sunke, Schuster Ute, Watson Andrew J., Robinson Carol (2022). Multidecadal changes in biology influence the variability of the North Atlantic carbon sink. Environmental Research Letters, 17(11), 114056 (13p.). Publisher's official version : , Open Access version :