Amino acid composition and δ15N of suspended matter in the Arabian Sea: implications for organic matter sources and degradation
Sedimentation in the ocean is fed by large aggregates produced in the surface mixed layer that sink rapidly through the water column. These particles sampled by sediment traps have often been proposed to interact by disaggregation and scavenging with a pool of fine suspended matter with very slow sinking velocities and thus a long residence time. We investigated the amino acid (AA) composition and stable nitrogen isotopic ratios of suspended matter (SPM) sampled during the late SW monsoon season in the Arabian Sea and compared them to those of sinking particles to understand organic matter degradation/modification during passage through the water column. We found that AA composition of mixed layer suspended matter corresponds more to fresh plankton and their aggregates, whereas AA composition of SPM in the sub-thermocline water column deviated progressively from mixed layer composition. We conclude that suspended matter in deep waters and in the mixed layers of oligotrophic stations is dominated by fine material that has a long residence time and organic matter that is resistant to degradation. SPM in areas of high primary productivity is essentially derived from fresh plankton and thus has a strong imprint of the subsurface nitrate source, whereas SPM at oligotrophic stations and at subthermocline depths appears to exchange amino acids and nitrogen isotopes with the dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pool influencing also the δ15N values.