High Temporal Variability of Total Organic Carbon in the Deep Northeastern Pacific

Chelsi N. Lopez, Marie Robert, Moira Galbraith, Sarah K. Bercovici, Monica V. Orellana, Dennis A. Hansell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The interseasonal and interannual variability of total organic carbon (TOC) was assessed in the deep northeastern Pacific Ocean, an area characterized by high primary production and organic matter export. Samples were collected from throughout the deeper water column (>250 m) seasonally in 2017 and 2018 along the Line P transect, as well as one distribution of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) in spring 2018. High heterogeneity was observed in TOC concentrations at depths greater than 1,000 m, both within seasons (concentration differences of ∼2–6 μmol kg–1) and across seasons (∼2–12 μmol kg–1), coinciding with changes in fluorescence in the overlying waters. Such observations suggest that biogenic particles sinking from the upper ocean are seasonally delivering observable TOC to depth. The presence of these particles also appeared to contribute to the DOC pool, as suggested by differences in the TOC and DOC distributions in spring 2018. Seasonal TOC net accumulation and removal rates differed between the years: 0.5 and 2.1 μmol kg–1 day–1 (accumulation) and 0.6 and 2.1 μmol kg–1 day–1 (removal) for 2017 and 2018, respectively. The rate estimates indicated that introduction of organic carbon to the bathypelagic occurred at approximately the same rate as removal post-bloom, demonstrating the efficient removal of seasonally produced organic carbon. High abundances of gelatinous zooplankton in spring 2018, supported by higher abundances of phytoplankton, enhanced the export of organic carbon to the bathypelagic zone during the seasonal bloom, resulting in localized TOC concentrations up to 148 μmol kg–1 in the bathypelagic. These results indicate high variability in bathypelagic TOC concentrations at high latitude, unlike oligotrophic systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number80
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
StatePublished - Mar 27 2020


  • North Pacific
  • Ocean Station Papa
  • carbon seasonality
  • deep carbon dynamics
  • dissolved organic carbon
  • export
  • marine biogeochemistry
  • total organic carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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