In the dark ocean, respiring organisms are the main sink for dissolved oxygen. The respiration rate in a given seawater volume can be quantified through dissolved oxygen drawdown or organic matter consumption as a function of time. Estimates of dissolved oxygen utilization rates (OUR) abound in the literature, but are typically obtained using proxies of questionable accuracy, often with low vertical resolution, and neglecting key regions such as the Southern and Indian oceans. Respiration rates based on particulate (POC) or dissolved (DOC) organic carbon are also sparsely observed and for DOC unavailable in many regions. Consequently, the relative contributions of POC or DOC as a respiration substrate in the dark ocean are unknown. Here we use recent datasets of true oxygen utilization, seawater age, and DOC to derive OUR and DOC consumption-rate profiles in 10 oceanic regions. We demonstrate that although DOC and POC consumption rates are globally consistent with OUR, they underestimate OUR in the deep, suggesting strong oxygen utilization at the seafloor. In the abyss, we find a negative correlation of DOC consumption rate with seawater age, suggesting that DOC reactivity decreases along the deep branch of the conveyor circulation. Our results highlight that benthic organisms are sensitive to perturbations in the surface production of organic matter and to large-scale circulation changes that affect its supply to the abyss.
Alkalinity, the excess of proton acceptors over donors, plays a major role in ocean chemistry, in buffering and in calcium carbonate precipitation and dissolution. Understanding alkalinity dynamics is pivotal to quantify ocean carbon dioxide uptake during times of global change. Here we review ocean alkalinity and its role in ocean buffering as well as the biogeochemical processes governing alkalinity and pH in the ocean. We show that it is important to distinguish between measurable titration alkalinity and charge-balance alkalinity that is used to quantify calcification and carbonate dissolution and needed to understand the impact of biogeochemical processes on components of the carbon dioxide system. A general treatment of ocean buffering and quantification via sensitivity factors is presented and used to link existing buffer and sensitivity factors. The impact of individual biogeochemical processes on ocean alkalinity and pH is discussed and quantified using these sensitivity factors. Processes governing ocean alkalinity on longer time scales such as carbonate compensation, (reversed) silicate weathering and anaerobic mineralization are discussed and used to derive a close-to-balance ocean alkalinity budget for the modern ocean.
We investigate if the commonly neglected riverine detrital carbonate fluxes might balance several chemical mass balances of the global ocean. Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) concentrations in riverine suspended sediments, i.e., carbon contained by these detrital carbonate minerals, was quantified at the basin and global scale. Our approach is based on globally representative datasets of riverine suspended sediment composition, catchment properties and a two-step regression procedure. The present day global riverine PIC flux is estimated at 3.1 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y (13% of total inorganic carbon export and 4 % of total carbon export), with a flux-weighted mean concentration of 0.26 ± 0.03 wt%. The flux prior to damming was 4.1 ± 0.5 Tmol C/y. PIC fluxes are concentrated in limestone-rich, rather dry and mountainous catchments of large rivers in Arabia, South East Asia and Europe with 2.2 Tmol C/y (67.6 %) discharged between 15 °N and 45 °N. Greenlandic and Antarctic meltwater discharge and ice-rafting additionally contribute 0.8 ± 0.3 Tmol C/y. This amount of detrital carbonate minerals annually discharged into the ocean implies a significant contribution of calcium (~ 4.75 Tmol Ca/y) and alkalinity fluxes (~ 10 Tmol(eq)/y) to marine mass balances and moderate inputs of strontium (~ 5 Gmol Sr/y), based on undisturbed riverine and cryospheric inputs and a dolomite/calcite ratio of 0.1. Magnesium fluxes (~ 0.25 Tmol Mg/y), mostly hosted by less-soluble dolomite, are rather negligible. These unaccounted fluxes help elucidating respective marine mass balances and potentially alter conclusions based on these budgets.