Latitudinal gradient in the respiration quotient and the implications for ocean oxygen availability.

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Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
Document Type: Report
Length: 6,242 words
Lexile Measure: 1440L

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Abstract :

Climate-driven depletion of ocean oxygen strongly impacts the global cycles of carbon and nutrients as well as the survival of many animal species. One of the main uncertainties in predicting changes to marine oxygen levels is the regulation of the biological respiration demand associated with the biological pump. Derived from the Redfield ratio, the molar ratio of oxygen to organic carbon consumed during respiration (i.e., the respiration quotient, r_O2:C) is consistently assumed constant but rarely, if ever, measured. Using a prognostic Earth system model, we show that a 0.1 increase in the respiration quotient from 1.0 leads to a 2.3% decline in global oxygen, a large expansion of low-oxygen zones, additional water column denitrification of 38 Tg N/y, and the loss of fixed nitrogen and carbon production in the ocean. We then present direct chemical measurements of r_O2:C using a Pacific Ocean meridional transect crossing all major surface biome types. The observed r_O2:C has a positive correlation with temperature, and regional mean values differ significantly from Redfield proportions. Finally, an independent global inverse model analysis constrained with nutrients, oxygen, and carbon concentrations supports a positive temperature dependence of r_O2:C in exported organic matter. We provide evidence against the common assumption of a static biological link between the respiration of organic carbon and the consumption of oxygen. Furthermore, the model simulations suggest that a changing respiration quotient will impact multiple biogeochemical cycles and that future warming can lead to more intense deoxygenation than previously anticipated. Redfield ratio | CESM | inverse modeling | elemental stoichiometry | photosynthetic quotient

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A637713359