Chemical tracers of productivity and respiration in the subtropical Pacific Ocean


  • S. Emerson,

  • P. D. Quay,

  • C. Stump,

  • D. Wilbur,

  • R. Schudlich


We determine annual rates of net biological oxygen production in the euphotic zone and respiration in the upper thermocline of the subtropical North Pacific ocean using mass balances of oxygen, argon, and nitrogen measured at the U.S. Joint Global Ocean Flux Study time series station ALOHA. Net evasion of nitrogen and argon to the atmosphere caused by warming of surface waters is balanced by supply primarily from cross-isopycnal transport. Mixing rates between the euphotic zone and the top of the permanent thermocline required to balance the inert gas flux are 1–2 cm2 s−1 when transformed to units of an eddy diffusion coefficient. Application of mixing rates derived from the inert gas mass balance to the oxygen field yields a net annual euphotic zone production rate of 1.4±1.0 moles O2 m−2 yr−1, one half of which is lost to the atmosphere, with most of the rest mixed into the top of the thermocline. Since cross-isopycnal gradients of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) are about half to those of oxygen, we estimate that at least one quarter of the carbon flux out of the euphotic zone is via DOC. Because surface ocean dissolved organic matter has a relatively high C/N ratio, the stoichiometry among O2, C, and inorganic N in the upper ocean should be different than that observed in deeper waters.