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PLoS One. 2017 Jan 25;12(1):e0170059. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0170059. eCollection 2017.

Enhanced Nitrogen Loss by Eddy-Induced Vertical Transport in the Offshore Peruvian Oxygen Minimum Zone.

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  • 1Department of Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Bremen, Germany.
  • 2Department of Physical Oceanography, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.


The eastern tropical South Pacific (ETSP) upwelling region is one of the ocean's largest sinks of fixed nitrogen, which is lost as N2 via the anaerobic processes of anammox and denitrification. One-third of nitrogen loss occurs in productive shelf waters stimulated by organic matter export as a result of eastern boundary upwelling. Offshore, nitrogen loss rates are lower, but due to its sheer size this area accounts for ~70% of ETSP nitrogen loss. How nitrogen loss and primary production are regulated in the offshore ETSP region where coastal upwelling is less influential remains unclear. Mesoscale eddies, ubiquitous in the ETSP region, have been suggested to enhance vertical nutrient transport and thereby regulate primary productivity and hence organic matter export. Here, we investigated the impact of mesoscale eddies on anammox and denitrification activity using 15N-labelled in situ incubation experiments. Anammox was shown to be the dominant nitrogen loss process, but varied across the eddy, whereas denitrification was below detection at all stations. Anammox rates at the eddy periphery were greater than at the center. Similarly, depth-integrated chlorophyll paralleled anammox activity, increasing at the periphery relative to the eddy center; suggestive of enhanced organic matter export along the periphery supporting nitrogen loss. This can be attributed to enhanced vertical nutrient transport caused by an eddy-driven submesoscale mechanism operating at the eddy periphery. In the ETSP region, the widespread distribution of eddies and the large heterogeneity observed in anammox rates from a compilation of stations suggests that eddy-driven vertical nutrient transport may regulate offshore primary production and thereby nitrogen loss.

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