Modeling responses of diatom productivity and biogenic silica export to iron enrichment in the equatorial Pacific Ocean

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Abstract

[1] Using a three-dimensional physical-biogeochemical model, we have investigated the modeled responses of diatom productivity and biogenic silica export to iron enrichment in the equatorial Pacific, and compared the model simulation with in situ (IronEx II) iron fertilization results. In the eastern equatorial Pacific, an area of 540,000 km2 was enhanced with iron by changing the photosynthetic efficiency and silicate and nitrogen uptake kinetics of phytoplankton in the model for a period of 20 days. The vertically integrated Chl a and primary production increased by about threefold 5 days after the start of the experiment, similar to that observed in the IronEx II experiment. Diatoms contribute to the initial increase of the total phytoplankton biomass, but decrease sharply after 10 days because of mesozooplankton grazing. The modeled surface nutrients (silicate and nitrate) and TCO2 anomaly fields, obtained from the difference between the “iron addition” and “ambient” (without iron) concentrations, also agreed well with the IronEx II observations. The enriched patch is tracked with an inert tracer similar to the SF6 used in the IronEx II. The modeled depth-time distribution of sinking biogenic silica (BSi) indicates that it would take more than 30 days after iron injection to detect any significant BSi export out of the euphotic zone. Sensitivity studies were performed to establish the importance of fertilized patch size, duration of fertilization, and the role of mesozooplankton grazing. A larger size of the iron patch tends to produce a broader extent and longer-lasting phytoplankton blooms. Longer duration prolongs phytoplankton growth, but higher zooplankton grazing pressure prevents significant phytoplankton biomass accumulation. With the same treatment of iron fertilization in the model, lowering mesozooplankton grazing rate generates much stronger diatom bloom, but it is terminated by Si(OH)4 limitation after the initial rapid increase. Increasing mesozooplankton grazing rate, the diatom increase due to iron addition stays at minimum level, but small phytoplankton tend to increase. The numerical model experiments demonstrate the value of ecosystem modeling for evaluating the detailed interaction between biogeochemical cycle and iron fertilization in the equatorial Pacific.

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