Model-based evaluation of methods to determine C:N and N:P regeneration ratios from dissolved nutrients



[1] Four indirect methods to determine carbon and nutrient regeneration ratios in the ocean are applied to results from a physical-biogeochemical model with prescribed element ratios for organic matter (de-)composition. The aim is to test whether these methods are suitable to reproduce Corg:N:P element ratios of organic matter remineralization, which in contrast to the real ocean are exactly known in the model framework. The model experiment is carried out using the classical C:N:P Redfield ratio of 106:16:1 for production and decomposition of organic material under preindustrial atmospheric pCO2. Two methods rely on predefined end member values, while the others do not. The first method is a simple linear regression of two parameters, neglecting mixing effects, and yields remineralization signals biased by isopycnal tracer gradients induced by contributions of different water masses. The second method is based on multiple linear regression of three parameters, includes mixing of three, but not-prescribed end members. It can, in part, reproduce the prescribed remineralization ratios. However, considerable bias appears as a result of water mass mixing. The third method considers isopycnal mixing of three prescribed end member water masses by using temperature/salinity as conservative tracers on the two density surfaces σΘ = 26.8 and σΘ = 27.2. On the basis of a mixing triangle approach, the method is able to reproduce the regeneration rates best in the low latitudes, where the integrated signal of remineralization is high. The fourth method uses the full set of available parameters to derive mixing fractions and remineralization and is applied to the density range from σΘ = 26.8 to σΘ = 27.2, yielding the best reproduction of prescribed remineralization ratios. As expected, results from the last two methods are sensitive to the choice of end member concentrations. In general, best agreement between modeled and reconstructed ratios is found between 20°N and 20°S and deviations occur toward the outcrop regions, which we account to the low amount of remineralized material together with uncertainties in prescribed end member values. Our investigation shows how apparent variability of remineralization ratios can be generated through methodological shortcomings only.