Delayed settling of marine snow: Effects of density gradient and particle properties and implications for carbon cycling

Jennifer C. Prairie, Kai Ziervogel, Roberto Camassa, Richard M. McLaughlin, Brian L. White, Carolin Dewald, Carol Arnosti

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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Abstract

Marine snow aggregates are often a dominant component of carbon flux and are sites of high bacterial activity; thus, small-scale changes in the settling behavior of marine snow can affect the vertical locations of carbon export and remineralization in the surface ocean. In this study, we experimentally investigated the sinking velocities of marine snow aggregates formed in roller tanks as they settled through sharp density gradients. We observed between 8 and 10 aggregates in 3 different experiments, each of which displayed delayed settling behavior - that is, a settling velocity minimum - as they crossed the density transitions. Characteristics of delayed settling behavior were also compared to density stratification and aggregate density and size; aggregate settling velocity decreased more, and for longer periods of time, when density gradients were sharper and when aggregates were less dense. The observed relationships between non-dimensional parameters and aggregate settling allow for direct application of our results to the field, providing insight into the conditions under which strong delayed settling behavior is likely to occur. Activities of extracellular enzymes (the initial step in microbial remineralization of organic matter) were more than an order of magnitude higher in the aggregates compared to the surrounding water from which the aggregates were derived. Coupling measured enzyme activities with observations of delayed settling behavior demonstrates that the extent as well as the vertical location of enzyme activity is strongly affected by aggregate settling behavior: total enzyme activity within the region of the density transition increased by a factor of 18 with increasing stratification. This study, which combines direct measurements of small-scale aggregate settling and microbial enzyme activity, offers an opportunity to determine the potential implications of delayed settling behavior for local and larger-scale carbon cycling in the ocean.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages28-38
Number of pages11
JournalMarine Chemistry
Volume175
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

Fingerprint

marine snow
carbon
particle
effect
Snow
Carbon
settling behavior
enzyme activity
Enzyme activity
remineralization
settling velocity
stratification
carbon flux
microbial activity
sea surface
enzyme
organic matter
ocean
experiment
water

Keywords

  • Aggregates
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Density gradients
  • Density interfaces
  • Fluid dynamics
  • Marine snow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology

Cite this

Delayed settling of marine snow : Effects of density gradient and particle properties and implications for carbon cycling. / Prairie, Jennifer C.; Ziervogel, Kai; Camassa, Roberto; McLaughlin, Richard M.; White, Brian L.; Dewald, Carolin; Arnosti, Carol.

In: Marine Chemistry, Vol. 175, 01.10.2015, p. 28-38.

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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