The effect of marine aggregate parameterisations on nutrients and oxygen minimum zones in a global biogeochemical model
Particle aggregation determines the particle flux length scale and affects the marine oxygen concentration and thus the volume of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) that are of special relevance for ocean nutrient cycles and marine ecosystems and that have been found to expand faster than can be explained by current state-of-the-art models. To investigate the impact of particle aggregation on global model performance, we carried out a sensitivity study with different parameterisations of marine aggregates and two different model resolutions. Model performance was investigated with respect to global nutrient and oxygen concentrations, as well as extent and location of OMZs. Results show that including an aggregation model improves the representation of OMZs. Moreover, we found that besides a fine spatial resolution of the model grid, the consideration of porous particles, an intermediate-to-high particle sinking speed and a moderate-to-high stickiness improve the model fit to both global distributions of dissolved inorganic tracers and regional patterns of OMZs, compared to a model without aggregation. Our model results therefore suggest that improvements not only in the model physics but also in the description of particle aggregation processes can play a substantial role in improving the representation of dissolved inorganic tracers and OMZs on a global scale. However, dissolved inorganic tracers are apparently not sufficient for a global model calibration, which could necessitate global model calibration against a global observational dataset of marine organic particles.