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Aquatic Microbial Ecology

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AME 33:289-301 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/ame033289

Organic carbon distribution and water column respiration in the NW Africa-Canaries Coastal Transition Zone

Javier Arístegui1,*, Eric D. Barton2, María F. Montero1, Mercedes García-Muñoz1, José Escánez3

1Facultad de Ciencias del Mar, Campus Universitario de Tafira, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 35017 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
2School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5AB, UK
3Instituto Español de Oceanografía, Carretera de San Andrés s/n, 38120 Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain

ABSTRACT: The Canary Current (CC) is characterised by strong disruption of its flow by the Canaries Archipelago, which extends across the prevailing flow. In the Coastal Transition Zone (CTZ) downstream of the islands, a region of high mesoscale activity connects the eutrophic waters of the NW Africa coastal upwelling (UW) system with the oligotrophic open ocean waters of the eastern subtropical North Atlantic gyre (ESNA). We studied the distribution of particulate (POC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and carbon remineralization rates in the 0 to 1000 m water column of this transitional region to assess its role in horizontal and vertical export of organic matter. The epipelagic waters (0 to 200 m) of the CTZ are characterised by higher mean surface integrated concentrations of POC (0.8 ± 0.4 mol C m-2) and DOC (17 ± 7 mol C m-2), and by higher community respiration (R >100 mmol C m-2 d-1) than the ESNA or UW waters. Integrated R was much lower (7 ± 3 mmol C m-2 d-1) in the mesopelagic zone (200 to 1000 m), indicating that most of the organic matter was respired in the upper 200 m, with little being transported downwards. Nevertheless, peaks in DOC and R were observed at 300 to 600 m depth, coinciding with the depth of the deep scattering layer. These relative maxima were particularly important in the case of DOC, reaching concentrations comparable to surface waters (>80 μM). In spite of this, DOC contributed only 26.5% to the apparent oxygen utilisation (AOU) in the mesopelagic zone. Correlations between R and particulate- and dissolved organic matter suggest that respiration was mainly supported by particulate material at surface and deep waters. We compared plankton metabolic balances along the UW, CTZ and ESNA. Our analyses show that during summer time, and probably during most of the year, the ESNA and CTZ behave as net heterotrophic regions. In spite of a relatively high primary production (P) favoured by mesoscale activity in the CTZ, plankton R clearly exceeds P as result of the excess carbon advected from the coastal UW. However, a significant amount of non-respired carbon must be transported from the CTZ to the open ocean to account for part of the surface metabolic imbalance between P and R reported for the ESNA.

KEY WORDS: Organic carbon · POC distribution · DOC distribution · water column respiration · AOU/DOC relationships · Carbon budget · Canary Current · Canaries CTZ region · NW Africa upwelling

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