Biominerals and the vertical flux of particulate organic carbon from the surface ocean

William M. Balch, Bruce C. Bowler, Dave T. Drapeau, Alex J. Poulton, Patrick M. Holligan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Particulate inorganic carbon (PIC; calcium carbonate) is thought to be a significant source of light scattering in the sea. It also provides ballast for particulate matter, driving the ocean's biological carbon pump. During three trans-Atlantic cruises, we measured particle optical properties plus concentrations of the three major components of sinking aggregates [particulate organic carbon (POC), PIC and biogenic silica (BSi)]. PIC contributed 15-23% of particle backscattering in oligotrophic subtropical gyres and temperate waters. Light scattering properties allowed quantification of the surface PIC:POC ratio. The ratio of the two ballast minerals (PIC:BSi) was significantly, inversely, correlated to POC concentration, allowing robust modeling of the density of sinking aggregates. Results showed greater PIC:POC ratios and sinking rates in oligotrophic regions due to greater relative abundance of PIC.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberL22605
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • Geophysics


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