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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-10
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2020-10
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: data description paper 06 Feb 2020

Submitted as: data description paper | 06 Feb 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Global database of oceanic particulate organic carbon to 234Th ratios: Improving estimates of the biological carbon pump

Viena Puigcorbé1, Pere Masqué1,2, and Fréderic A. C. Le Moigne3 Viena Puigcorbé et al.
  • 1School of Science, Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, Edith Cowan University, Joondalup WA 6027, Australia
  • 2Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals and Departament de Física, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 08193 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Spain
  • 3Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography, UM110 CNRS, Aix-Marseille Université, IRD, 13288 Marseille, France

Abstract. The ocean's biological carbon pump (BCP) plays a major role in the global earth carbon cycle. A fraction of the photosynthetically fixed organic carbon produced in surface waters is exported below the sunlit layer in the form of settling particles (e.g. marine snow). Since the seminal works on the BCP, global estimates of the global strength of the BCP have improved but large uncertainties remain (from 5 to 20 GtC yr−1 exported below the euphotic zone or mixed layer depth). The 234Th technique is widely used to measure the downward export of particulate organic carbon (POC). This technique has the advantage to allow a downward flux to be determined by integrating the deficit of 234Th in the upper water column and coupling it to an estimate of the POC/234Th ratio in sinking matter. However, the factors controlling the regional, temporal and depth variations of POC/234Th ratios are poorly understood. We present a database of 9110 measurements of the POC/234Th ratio in the ocean, from the surface down to > 5500 m, sampled on three size fractions (~ > 0.7 μm, ~ 1–50 μm, ~ > 50 μm), collected with in situ pumps and bottles, and also from bulk particles collected with sediment traps. The dataset is archived on the data repository PANGAEA® (https://www.pangaea.de/) under https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.902103 (Puigcorbé, 2019). The samples presented in this dataset were collected between 1989 and 2016 and the data have been obtained from published papers and open datasets available online. Unpublished data has also been included. Most of the open ocean provinces are represented by multiple measurements. However, there is an uneven distribution of the data, with some areas highly sampled (e.g, China Sea, Bermuda Atlantic Time Series station) compared to some others that are not well represented, such as the southeastern Atlantic, the south Pacific and the south Indian oceans. Some costal areas, although in a much smaller number, are also included in this global compilation. Globally, based on different depths horizons and climate zones, the median POC/234Th ratios have a wide range, from 0.6 to 18 μmol dpm-1.

Viena Puigcorbé et al.

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Global database of oceanic particulate organic carbon to particulate 234Th ratios V. Puigcorbé https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.911424

Viena Puigcorbé et al.

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Short summary
The biological carbon pump is a mechanism by which the oceans capture atmospheric carbon dioxide thanks to microscopic marine algae. Quantifying its strength and efficiency is crucial to understand the global carbon budget and be able to forecast its trends. The radioactive pair 234Th:238U has been extensively used for that purpose. This is a global compilation of carbon to 234Th ratios (needed to convert the 234Th fluxes to carbon fluxes) that will contribute to improve our modelling efforts.
The biological carbon pump is a mechanism by which the oceans capture atmospheric carbon dioxide...
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