MEPS - Vol. 354 - Feature article

Diatoms in distress. Illustration: Nivi Alroy

Kahl LA, Vardi A, Schofield O

 

Effects of phytoplankton physiology on export flux

 

Global mitigation of anthropogenic CO2 effects, e.g. by geo-engineering applications, requires an understanding of the underlying processes. One option for mitigation is a fertilization of the world’s oceans to sequester carbon via fixation in phytoplankton cells, followed by subsequent sedimentation of the cells. This phytoplankton export flux is linked to the cells' physiology: Kahl, Vardi & Schofield found a decline in photosynthetic efficiency, increased oxidative stress and an initiation of autocatalytic cell death during periods of increased sticking efficiency of cells and aggregates. In a 1-dimensional export flux model, the assumption of variable sticking efficiency results in a doubling of carbon export, compared to models using a static value.

 

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