Cycling of dissolved and particulate organic matter in the open ocean


  • Ellen R. M. Druffel,

  • Peter M. Williams,

  • James E. Bauer,

  • John R. Ertel


Radiocarbon (Δ14C), δ13C, bulk carbon and organic constituent concentration measurements are presented for dissolved and particulate carbon pools from the North Central Pacific Ocean (NCP) and the Sargasso Sea (SS). We operationally define three overlapping pools of dissolved organic carbon (DOC): (1) DOC that is oxidizable by UV radiation (DOCuv); (2) “extra” DOC measured by Co/CoO flow-through high-temperature catalytic oxidation (DOCFt-htc), which also has low Δ14C values like DOCuv (Bauer et al., 1992a); and (3) a potential residual DOC fraction that is the difference between DOC measured by discrete-injection high-temperature catalytic oxidation (DOChtc) and DOCFt-htc, and which has unknown Δ14C signature. The distribution of a large fraction of DOC appears to be controlled by circulation of deep ocean waters between major oceans. The DOC in the SS is slightly younger than would be expected if circulation was the sole process controlling DOC cycling. We propose that there is more bomb 14C in the deep SS DOC to account for this difference. The Δ14C values of suspended, and to a lesser extent sinking particulate organic carbon (POC), decrease with depth, with the suspended POC displaying a much steeper gradient in the SS than in the NCP. These data reflect the incorporation of low-activity organic matter into the POC pool, possibly through incorporation of DOC by physical adsorption and/or biological heterotrophy.