Marine Science Faculty Publications


Meridional Fluxes of Dissolved Organic Matter in the North Atlantic Ocean

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Using bio‐optical estimates of gelbstoff and a few platinum measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOCpt), a budget of the meridional flux of DOC and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) across 36°25′N in the North Atlantic is constructed from previous inverse models of water and element transport. Distinct southward subsurface fluxes of dissolved organic matter (DOM) within subducted shelf water, cabelled slope water, and overturned basin water are inferred. Within two cases of a positive gradient of DOCpt between terrestrial / shelf and offshore stocks, the net equatorward exports of O2 and DOCpt from the northern North Atlantic yield molar ratios of 2.1 to 9.1, compared to the expected Redfield O2/C ratio of 1.3. In the first case, 63% of the apparent oxygen utilization demands of the water column may be met by DOC, instead of only 14% in the second scenario, preserving a role for falling particles in the sea. With a DOC/DON ratio of 10, the larger net southward export of DON across 36°25′N balances the postulated net northward input of 1.7 × 103 kg NO3 s−1 of unutilized nitrate within the Gulf Stream. Without an enhanced supply of DOM from the shelves, a zero seaward gradient of DOM in the third case suggests that none of the poleward nitrate flux is returned southward as DON, but instead a net poleward flux of DON prevails as well. Our present estimates are confounded, however, by the seasonal and multiyear variability of sinking processes in the North Atlantic. Future active and passive remote sensors, field programs, and simulation models must now discriminate between particulate and dissolved components of surface color signals to verify the importance of both continental margins and DOM in global biogeochemical cycles.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 97, issue C10, p. 15625-15637

Copyright 1992 by the American Geophysical Union.