Spatiotemporal variation of vertical particle fluxes and modelled chlorophyll a standing stocks in the Benguela Upwelling System


Marine particle fluxes from high productive coastal upwelling systems return upwelled CO2 and nutrients to the deep ocean and sediments and have a substantial impact on the global carbon cycle. This study examines relations between production regimes on the shelf and over the continental margin of the Benguela Upwelling System (BUS) in the SE Atlantic Ocean. Data of composition and timing of vertical particle flux come from sediment trap time series (deployed intermittently between 1988 and 2014) in the regions Walvis Ridge, Walvis Bay, Luederitz and Orange River. We compare their seasonal variability to modelled patterns of chlorophyll concentrations in a 3-D ecosystem model. Both modelled seasonal chlorophyll a standing stocks and sampled particle flux patterns are highly correspondent with a bimodal seasonal cycle offshore the BUS. The material in the particle flux in offshore traps is dominantly carbonate (40–70%), and flux peaks in offshore particle flux originate from two independent events: in austral autumn thermocline shoaling and vertical mixing are decoupled from coastal upwelling, while fluxes in spring coincide with the upwelling season, indicated by slightly elevated biogenic opal values at some locations. Coastal particle fluxes are characterized by a trimodal pattern and are dominated by biogenic opal (22–35%) and organic matter (30–60%). The distinct seasonality in observed fluxes on the shelf is caused by high variability in production, sinking behaviour, wind stress, and hydrodynamic processes. We speculate that global warming will increase ocean stratification and alter coastal upwelling, so that consequences for primary production and particle flux in the BUS are inevitable.
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