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Turbulence simultaneously stimulates small- and large-scale CO2 sequestration by chain-forming diatoms in the sea

Journal article
Authors Johanna Bergkvist
Isabell Klawonn
Martin J. Whitehouse
Gaute Lavik
Volker Brüchert
Helle Ploug
Published in Nature Communications
Volume 9
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of marine sciences
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Subject categories Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources, Climate Research, Ecology


Chain-forming diatoms are key CO2-fixing organisms in the ocean. Under turbulent conditions they form fast-sinking aggregates that are exported from the upper sunlit ocean to the ocean interior. A decade-old paradigm states that primary production in chain-forming diatoms is stimulated by turbulence. Yet, direct measurements of cell-specific primary production in individual field populations of chain-forming diatoms are poorly documented. Here we measured cell-specific carbon, nitrate and ammonium assimilation in two field populations of chain-forming diatoms (Skeletonema and Chaetoceros) at low-nutrient concentrations under still conditions and turbulent shear using secondary ion mass spectrometry combined with stable isotopic tracers and compared our data with those predicted by mass transfer theory. Turbulent shear significantly increases cell-specific C assimilation compared to still conditions in the cells/chains that also form fast-sinking, aggregates rich in carbon and ammonium. Thus, turbulence simultaneously stimulates small-scale biological CO2 assimilation and large-scale biogeochemical C and N cycles in the ocean.

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