Flux of Particulate Elements in the North Atlantic Ocean Constrained by Multiple Radionuclides

Christopher T. Hayes, Erin E. Black, Robert F. Anderson, Mark Baskaran, Ken O. Buesseler, Matthew A. Charette, Hai Cheng, J. Kirk Cochran, R. Lawrence Edwards, Patrick Fitzgerald, Phoebe J. Lam, Yanbin Lu, Stephanie O. Morris, Daniel C. Ohnemus, Frank J. Pavia, Gillian Stewart, Yi Tang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Sinking particles strongly regulate the distribution of reactive chemical substances in the ocean, including particulate organic carbon and other elements (e.g., P, Cd, Mn, Cu, Co, Fe, Al, and 232 Th). Yet, the sinking fluxes of trace elements have not been well described in the global ocean. The U.S. GEOTRACES campaign in the North Atlantic (GA03) offers the first data set in which the sinking flux of carbon and trace elements can be derived using four different radionuclide pairs ( 238 U :234 Th ;210 Pb: 210 Po; 228 Ra: 228 Th; and 234 U: 230 Th) at stations co-located with sediment trap fluxes for comparison. Particulate organic carbon, particulate P, and particulate Cd fluxes all decrease sharply with depth below the euphotic zone. Particulate Mn, Cu, and Co flux profiles display mixed behavior, some cases reflecting biotic remineralization, and other cases showing increased flux with depth. The latter may be related to either lateral input of lithogenic material or increased scavenging onto particles. Lastly, particulate Fe fluxes resemble fluxes of Al and 232 Th, which all have increasing flux with depth, indicating a dominance of lithogenic flux at depth by resuspended sediment transported laterally to the study site. In comparing flux estimates derived using different isotope pairs, differences result from different timescales of integration and particle size fractionation effects. The range in flux estimates produced by different methods provides a robust constraint on the true removal fluxes, taking into consideration the independent uncertainties associated with each method. These estimates will be valuable targets for biogeochemical modeling and may also offer insight into particle sinking processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1738-1758
Number of pages21
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study grew out of a synthesis workshop at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in August 2016. This workshop was sponsored by the U.S. GEOTRACES Project Office (NSF 1536294) and the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCP) Project Office (NSF 1558412 and NASA NNX17AB17G). The U.S. National Science Foundation supported all of the analytical work on GA03. Kuanbo Zhou measured 228Th in the large size class particles (NSF 0925158 to WHOI). NSF 1061128 to Stony Brook University supported the BaRFlux project, for which Chistina Heilbrun is acknowledged for laboratory and field work. The lead author acknowledges support from a start-up grant from the University of Southern Mississippi. Two anonymous reviewers are thanked for their constructive comments. All GEOTRACES GA03 data used in this study are accessible through the Biological and Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (http://data. bco-dmo.org/jg/dir/BCO/GEOTRACES/ NorthAtlanticTransect/), and derived parameters are reported in the supporting information.


  • North Atlantic
  • biological carbon pump
  • export
  • trace metals

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