An observational assessment of the influence of mesoscale and submesoscale heterogeneity on ocean biogeochemical reactions

Adrian P. Martin, Marina Lévy, Simon Van Gennip, Silvia Pardo, Meric Srokosz, John Allen, Stuart C. Painter, Roz Pidcock

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    Numerous observations demonstrate that considerable spatial variability exists in components of the marine planktonic ecosystem at the mesoscale and submesoscale (100 km–1 km). The causes and consequences of physical processes at these scales (“eddy advection”) influencing biogeochemistry have received much attention. Less studied, the nonlinear nature of most ecological and biogeochemical interactions means that such spatial variability has consequences for regional estimates of processes including primary production and grazing, independent of the physical processes. This effect has been termed “eddy reactions.” Models remain our most powerful tools for extrapolating hypotheses for biogeochemistry to global scales and to permit future projections. The spatial resolution of most climate and global biogeochemical models means that processes at the mesoscale and submesoscale are poorly resolved. Modeling work has previously suggested that the neglected eddy reactions may be almost as large as the mean field estimates in some cases. This study seeks to quantify the relative size of eddy and mean reactions observationally, using in situ and satellite data. For primary production, grazing, and zooplankton mortality the eddy reactions are between 7% and 15% of the mean reactions. These should be regarded as preliminary estimates to encourage further observational estimates and not taken as a justification for ignoring eddy reactions. Compared to modeling estimates, there are inconsistencies in the relative magnitude of eddy reactions and in correlations which are a major control on their magnitude. One possibility is that models exhibit much stronger spatial correlations than are found in reality, effectively amplifying the magnitude of eddy reactions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1421-1438
    Number of pages18
    JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Sept 2015


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