Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
19 May 2017
Research article |  | 19 May 2017

A model study of warming-induced phosphorus–oxygen feedbacks in open-ocean oxygen minimum zones on millennial timescales

Daniela Niemeyer, Tronje P. Kemena, Katrin J. Meissner, and Andreas Oschlies

Abstract. Observations indicate an expansion of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) over the past 50 years, likely related to ongoing deoxygenation caused by reduced oxygen solubility, changes in stratification and circulation, and a potential acceleration of organic matter turnover in a warming climate. The overall area of ocean sediments that are in direct contact with low-oxygen bottom waters also increases with expanding OMZs. This leads to a release of phosphorus from ocean sediments. If anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions continue unabated, higher temperatures will cause enhanced weathering on land, which, in turn, will increase the phosphorus and alkalinity fluxes into the ocean and therefore raise the ocean's phosphorus inventory even further. A higher availability of phosphorus enhances biological production, remineralisation and oxygen consumption, and might therefore lead to further expansions of OMZs, representing a positive feedback. A negative feedback arises from the enhanced productivity-induced drawdown of carbon and also increased uptake of CO2 due to weathering-induced alkalinity input. This feedback leads to a decrease in atmospheric CO2 and weathering rates. Here, we quantify these two competing feedbacks on millennial timescales for a high CO2 emission scenario. Using the University of Victoria (UVic) Earth System Climate Model of intermediate complexity, our model results suggest that the positive benthic phosphorus release feedback has only a minor impact on the size of OMZs in the next 1000 years. The increase in the marine phosphorus inventory under assumed business-as-usual global warming conditions originates, on millennial timescales, almost exclusively (> 80 %) from the input via terrestrial weathering and causes a 4- to 5-fold expansion of the suboxic water volume in the model.

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