Export of pre-aged, labile DOM from a central California coastal upwelling system: Insights from D/L amino acids and Δ14C signatures

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Brett D Walker1, Yuan Shen2, Ronald H Benner2 and Ellen R M Druffel1, (1)University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States, (2)University of South Carolina Columbia, Marine Sciences, Columbia, SC, United States
Coastal upwelling zones are among the most productive regions in the world and play a major role in global carbon and nitrogen cycles. Recent research suggests that a substantial fraction of newly fixed organic matter is exported offshore in the form of dissolved organic matter (DOM). However, to date only a few studies have examined DOM composition in the context of production and export from upwelling systems. The ultimate fate and geochemical impact of coastal DOM exported to offshore and mesopelagic ecosystems also remains largely unknown.

Between 2007-2009 we conducted a high-resolution biogeochemical time series at the Granite Canyon Marine Pollution Studies Lab in part to evaluate the seasonal production and export of DOM from the Central CA coast. Our previous work demonstrated substantial, albeit disparate, seasonal production of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen (DOC, DON) – with high DON (and low C:N ratios) produced during upwelling and high DOC produced during summer/fall water column stratification (Walker and McCarthy, 2012). Here we present new total dissolved D/L amino acid (TDAA) and UV-oxidizable DOC radiocarbon (Δ14C) data with the goal of determining the relative sources (heterotrophic vs. autotrophic), bioavailability, microbial processing and 14C-ages of C-rich vs. N-rich DOM exported from this upwelling system.

Our results suggest that C-rich DOM produced during water column stratification carries a large microbial signature (i.e. high D/L AA ratios and non-protein AA abundance), whereas N-rich DOM produced during upwelling appears to be fresh, autotrophic DOM (i.e. lowest D/L AA ratios and highest TDAA abundance). DOM Δ14C signatures also did not approximate in situ dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), and instead were far more negative and highly correlated to water mass density. Together our results indicate a previously unrecognized source of highly labile yet pre-aged DOM potentially impacting offshore and mesopelagic ecosystems.