Recent modeling results suggest that oceanic oxygen levels will decrease significantly over the next decades to centuries in response to climate change and altered ocean circulation. Hence, the future ocean may experience major shifts in nutrient cycling triggered by the expansion and intensification of tropical oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), which are connected to the most productive upwelling systems in the ocean. There are numerous feedbacks among oxygen concentrations, nutrient cycling and biological productivity; however, existing knowledge is insufficient to understand physical, chemical and biological interactions in order to adequately assess past and potential future changes.
In the following, we summarize one decade of research performed in the framework of the Collaborative Research Center 754 (SFB754) focusing on climate–biogeochemistry interactions in tropical OMZs. We investigated the influence of low environmental oxygen conditions on biogeochemical cycles, organic matter formation and remineralization, greenhouse gas production and the ecology in OMZ regions of the eastern tropical South Pacific compared to the weaker OMZ of the eastern tropical North Atlantic. Based on our findings, a coupling of primary production and organic matter export via the nitrogen cycle is proposed, which may, however, be impacted by several additional factors, e.g., micronutrients, particles acting as microniches, vertical and horizontal transport of organic material and the role of zooplankton and viruses therein.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut