Western Pacific atmospheric nutrient deposition fluxes, their impact on surface ocean productivity



The atmospheric deposition of both macronutrients and micronutrients plays an important role in driving primary productivity, particularly in the low-latitude ocean. We report aerosol major ion measurements for five ship-based sampling campaigns in the western Pacific from ~25°N to 20°S and compare the results with those from Atlantic meridional transects (~50°N to 50°S) with aerosols collected and analyzed in the same laboratory, allowing full incomparability. We discuss sources of the main nutrient species (nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and iron (Fe)) in the aerosols and their stoichiometry. Striking north–south gradients are evident over both basins with the Northern Hemisphere more impacted by terrestrial dust sources and anthropogenic emissions and the North Atlantic apparently more impacted than the North Pacific. We estimate the atmospheric supply rates of these nutrients and the potential impact of the atmospheric deposition on the tropical western Pacific. Our results suggest that the atmospheric deposition is P deficient relative to the needs of the resident phytoplankton. These findings suggest that atmospheric supply of N, Fe, and P increases primary productivity utilizing some of the residual excess phosphorus (P*) in the surface waters to compensate for aerosol P deficiency. Regional primary productivity is further enhanced via the stimulation of nitrogen fixation fuelled by the residual atmospheric iron and P*. Our stoichiometric calculations reveal that a P* of 0.1 µmol L−1 can offset the P deficiency in atmospheric supply for many months. This study suggests that atmospheric deposition may sustain ~10% of primary production in both the western tropical Pacific.