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Nature. 2000 Apr 6;404(6778):595-8.

Rapid and early export of Phaeocystis antarctica blooms in the Ross Sea, Antarctica.

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University of Charleston, Grice Marine Laboratory, South Carolina 29412, USA.


The Southern Ocean is very important for the potential sequestration of carbon dioxide in the oceans and is expected to be vulnerable to changes in carbon export forced by anthropogenic climate warming. Annual phytoplankton blooms in seasonal ice zones are highly productive and are thought to contribute significantly to pCO2 drawdown in the Southern Ocean. Diatoms are assumed to be the most important phytoplankton class with respect to export production in the Southern Ocean; however, the colonial prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis antarctica regularly forms huge blooms in seasonal ice zones and coastal Antarctic waters. There is little evidence regarding the fate of carbon produced by P. antarctica in the Southern Ocean, although remineralization in the upper water column has been proposed to be the main pathway in polar waters. Here we present evidence for early and rapid carbon export from P. antarctica blooms to deep water and sediments in the Ross Sea. Carbon sequestration from P. antarctica blooms may influence the carbon cycle in the Southern Ocean, especially if projected climatic changes lead to an alteration in the structure of the phytoplankton community.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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