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Understanding the unique biogeochemistry of the Mediterranean Sea: Insights from a coupled phosphorus and nitrogen model

Powley, Helen R. ORCID:, Krom, Michael D. and Cappellen, Philippe Van 2017. Understanding the unique biogeochemistry of the Mediterranean Sea: Insights from a coupled phosphorus and nitrogen model. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 31 (6) , pp. 1010-1031. 10.1002/2017GB005648

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The Mediterranean Sea (MS) is an oligotrophic basin whose offshore water column exhibits low dissolved inorganic phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) concentrations, unusually high nitrate (NO3) to phosphate (PO4) ratios, and distinct biogeochemical differences between the Western Mediterranean Sea (WMS) and Eastern Mediterranean Sea (EMS). A new mass balance model of P and N cycling in the WMS is coupled to a pre-existing EMS model to understand these biogeochemical features. Estimated land-derived inputs of reactive P and N to the WMS and EMS are similar per unit surface area, but marine inputs are 4 to 5 times greater for the WMS, which helps explain the approximately 3 times higher primary productivity of the WMS. The lateral inputs of marine sourced inorganic and organic P support significant fractions of new production in the WMS and EMS, similar to subtropical gyres. The mass balance calculations imply that the MS is net heterotrophic: dissolved organic P and N entering the WMS and EMS, primarily via the Straits of Gibraltar and Sicily, are mineralized to PO4 and NO3 and subsequently exported out of the basin by the prevailing anti-estuarine circulation. The high deepwater (DW) molar NO3:PO4 ratios reflect the high reactive N:P ratio of inputs to the WMS and EMS, combined with low denitrification rates. The lower DW NO3:PO4 ratio of the WMS (21) compared to the EMS (28) reflects lower reactive N:P ratios of inputs to the WMS, including the relatively low N:P ratio of Atlantic surface water flowing into the WMS.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Publisher: American Geophysical Union (AGU)
ISSN: 0886-6236
Date of Acceptance: 16 May 2017
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2024 04:50

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