The ballast effect of lithogenic matter and its influences on the carbon fluxes in the Indian Ocean

Rixen, Tim; Gaye, Birgit; Emeis, Kay-Christian; Ramaswamy, Venkitasubramani

Data obtained from long-term sediment trap experiments in the Indian Ocean in conjunction with satellite observations illustrate the influence of primary production and the ballast effect on organic carbon flux into the deep sea. They suggest that primary production is the main control on the spatial variability of organic carbon fluxes at most of our study sites in the Indian Ocean, except at sites influenced by river discharges. At these sites the spatial variability of organic carbon flux is influenced by lithogenic matter content. To quantify the impact of lithogenic matter on the organic carbon flux, the densities of the main ballast minerals, their flux rates and seawater properties were used to calculate sinking speeds of material intercepted by sediment traps. Sinking speeds in combination with satellite-derived export production rates allowed us to compute organic carbon fluxes. Flux calculations imply that lithogenic matter ballast increases organic carbon fluxes at all sampling sites in the Indian Ocean by enhancing sinking speeds and reducing the time of organic matter respiration in the water column. We calculated that lithogenic matter content in aggregates and pellets enhances organic carbon flux rates on average by 45 % and by up to 62 % at trap locations in the river-influenced regions of the Indian Ocean. Such a strong lithogenic matter ballast effect explains the fact that organic carbon fluxes are higher in the low-productive southern Java Sea compared to the high-productive western Arabian Sea. It also implies that land use changes and the associated enhanced transport of lithogenic matter from land into the ocean may significantly affect the CO2 uptake of the organic carbon pump in the receiving ocean areas.

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Rixen, Tim / Gaye, Birgit / Emeis, Kay-Christian / et al: The ballast effect of lithogenic matter and its influences on the carbon fluxes in the Indian Ocean. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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