Global Marine Productivity and Living-Phytoplankton Carbon Biomass Estimated from a Physiological Growth Model

Lionel Arteaga, Princeton University, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, Princeton, NJ, United States, Markus Pahlow, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Marine Biogeochemistry, Kiel, Germany and Andreas Oschlies, GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Kiel, Germany
Primay production by marine phytoplankton essentially drives the oceanic biological carbon pump. Global productivity estimates are commonly founded on chlorophyll-based primary production models. However, a major drawback of most of these models is that variations in chlorophyll concentration do not necessarily account for changes in phytoplankton biomass resulting from the physiological regulation of the chlorophyll-to-carbon ratio (Chl:C). Here we present phytoplankton production rates and surface phytoplankton C concentrations for the global ocean for 2005–2010, obtained by combining satellite Chl observations with a mechanistic model for the acclimation of phytoplankton stoichiometry to variations in nutrients, light and temperature. We compare our inferred phytoplankton C concentrations with an independent estimate of surface particulate organic carbon (POC) to identify for the first time the global contribution of living phytoplankton to total POC in the surface ocean. Our annual primary production (46 Pg C yr−1) is in good agreement with other C-based model estimates obtained from satellite observations. We find that most of the oligotrophic surface ocean is dominated by living phytoplankton biomass (between 30–70% of total particulate carbon). Lower contributions are found in the tropical Pacific (10–30% phytoplankton) and the Southern Ocean (≈ 10%). Our method provides a novel analytical tool for identifying changes in marine plankton communities and carbon cycling.