Multiple drivers of production and particle export in the western tropical North Atlantic

Laura F. Korte, Geert Jan A. Brummer, Michèlle van der Does, Catarina V. Guerreiro, Furu Mienis, Chris I. Munday, Leandro Ponsoni, Stefan Schouten, Jan Berend W. Stuut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To assess the impacts of Amazon River discharge, Saharan dust deposition, N2-fixation and mixed-layer deepening on the biological carbon pump, sediment traps were moored from October 2012 to November 2013 at two sites in the western tropical North Atlantic (49°W,12°N/57°W,12°N). Particle exports interpreted along with satellite- and Argo-float data show peak fluxes in biogenic silica (31 mg m−2 d−1) and organic carbon (25 mg m−2 d−1) during the fall of 2013 that were ten to five times higher than any time earlier during the year. These high export fluxes occurred in tandem with high surface chlorophyll a concentrations associated with the dispersal of the Amazon River plume, following retroflection into the North-Atlantic-Counter-Current. High fucoxanthin fluxes (' 80 μg m−2 d−1) and low δ15N-values (−0.6‰) suggest a large contribution by marine diatom-diazotrophic-associations, possibly enhanced by wet Saharan dust deposition. During summer, the Amazon River plume resulted in high mass fluxes at 57°W that were enriched in biogenic silica but weakly influenced by diazotrophic-associations compared to the fall event at 49°W. High carbonate-carbon fluxes (17 mg m−2 d−1) dominated a second single event at 49°W during spring that was likely triggered by mixed-layer deepening. Rain-ratios of BSi/Ccarb amounted to 1.7 when associated with high export fluxes linked to the Amazon River plume. Compared to an annual average of 0.3, this indicates a more efficient uptake of CO2 via the biological pump compared to when the plume was absent, hence supporting earlier observations that the Amazon River plume is important for ocean CO2 sequestration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2108-2124
Number of pages17
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number9
Early online date2 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


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