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Nutrient supply controls particulate elemental concentrations and ratios in the low latitude eastern Indian Ocean.

  • Author(s): Garcia, Catherine A;
  • Baer, Steven E;
  • Garcia, Nathan S;
  • Rauschenberg, Sara;
  • Twining, Benjamin S;
  • Lomas, Michael W;
  • Martiny, Adam C
  • et al.

Variation in ocean C:N:P of particulate organic matter (POM) has led to competing hypotheses for the underlying drivers. Each hypothesis predicts C:N:P equally well due to regional co-variance in environmental conditions and biodiversity. The Indian Ocean offers a unique positive temperature and nutrient supply relationship to test these hypotheses. Here we show how elemental concentrations and ratios vary over daily and regional scales. POM concentrations were lowest in the southern gyre, elevated across the equator, and peaked in the Bay of Bengal. Elemental ratios were highest in the gyre, but approached Redfield proportions northwards. As Prochlorococcus dominated the phytoplankton community, biodiversity changes could not explain the elemental variation. Instead, our data supports the nutrient supply hypothesis. Finally, gyre dissolved iron concentrations suggest extensive iron stress, leading to depressed ratios compared to other gyres. We propose a model whereby differences in iron supply and N2-fixation influence C:N:P levels across ocean gyres.

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