Ocean phosphorus inventory: large uncertainties in future projections on millennial timescales and their consequences for ocean deoxygenation
Previous studies have suggested that enhanced weathering and benthic phosphorus (P) fluxes, triggered by climate warming, can increase the oceanic P inventory on millennial timescales, promoting ocean productivity and deoxygenation. In this study, we assessed the major uncertainties in projected P inventories and their imprint on ocean deoxygenation using an Earth system model of intermediate complexity for the same business-as-usual carbon dioxide (CO2) emission scenario until the year 2300 and subsequent linear decline to zero emissions until the year 3000. Our set of model experiments under the same climate scenarios but differing in their biogeochemical P parameterizations suggest a large spread in the simulated oceanic P inventory due to uncertainties in (1) assumptions for weathering parameters, (2) the representation of bathymetry on slopes and shelves in the model bathymetry, (3) the parametrization of benthic P fluxes and (4) the representation of sediment P inventories. Considering the weathering parameters closest to the present day, a limited P reservoir and prescribed anthropogenic P fluxes, we find a +30 % increase in the total global ocean P inventory by the year 5000 relative to pre-industrial levels, caused by global warming. Weathering, benthic and anthropogenic fluxes of P contributed +25 %, +3 % and +2 %, respectively. The total range of oceanic P inventory changes across all model simulations varied between +2 % and +60 %. Suboxic volumes were up to 5 times larger than in a model simulation with a constant oceanic P inventory. Considerably large amounts of the additional P left the ocean surface unused by phytoplankton via physical transport processes as preformed P. In the model, nitrogen fixation was not able to adjust the oceanic nitrogen inventory to the increasing P levels or to compensate for the nitrogen loss due to increased denitrification. This is because low temperatures and iron limitation inhibited the uptake of the extra P and growth by nitrogen fixers in polar and lower-latitude regions. We suggest that uncertainties in P weathering, nitrogen fixation and benthic P feedbacks need to be reduced to achieve more reliable projections of oceanic deoxygenation on millennial timescales.