Carbonate fluxes by coccolithophore species between NW Africa and the Caribbean: Implications for the biological carbon pump

Catarina V. Guerreiro*, Karl Heinz Baumann, Geert Jan A. Brummer, André Valente, Gerhard Fischer, Patrizia Ziveri, Vanda Brotas, Jan Berend W. Stuut

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Coccolithophores are among the most important calcifying pelagic organisms. To assess how coccolithophore species with different coccolith-carbonate mass and distinct ecological resilience to ocean warming will influence the “rain ratio” and the “biological carbon pump”, 1 yr of species-specific coccolith-carbonate export fluxes were quantified using sediment traps moored at four sites between NW Africa and the Caribbean (i.e., CB-20°N/21°W, at 1214 m; M1-12°N/23°W, at 1150 m; M2-14°N/37°W, at 1235 m; M4-12°N/49°W, at 1130 m). Highest coccolith-CaCO3 fluxes at the westernmost site M4, where the nutricline is deepest along the tropical North Atlantic, were dominated by deep-dwelling small-sized coccolith species Florisphaera profunda and Gladiolithus flabellatus. Total coccolith-CaCO3 fluxes of 371 mg m−2 yr−1 at M4 were followed by 165 mg m−2 yr−1 at the north-easternmost CB, 130 mg m−2 yr−1 at M1, and 114 mg m−2 yr−1 at M2 in between. Coccoliths accounted for nearly half of the total carbonate flux at M4 (45%), much higher compared to 23% at M2 and 15% at M1 and CB. At site M4, highest ratios of coccolith-CaCO3 to particulate organic carbon fluxes and weak correlations between the carbonate of deep-dwelling species and particulate organic carbon suggest that increasing productivity in the lower photic zone in response to ocean warming might enhance the rain ratio and reduce the coccolith-ballasting efficiency. The resulting weakened biological carbon pump could, however, be counterbalanced by increasing frequency of Saharan dust outbreaks across the tropical Atlantic, providing mineral ballast as well as nutrients to fuel fast-blooming and ballast-efficient coccolithophore species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3190-3208
Number of pages19
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


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