Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2021-75
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2021-75

  19 Aug 2021

19 Aug 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

There and back again, an organic carbon journey: mapping pathways and loops

Maike Iris Esther Scheffold and Inga Hense Maike Iris Esther Scheffold and Inga Hense
  • Institute of Marine Ecosystem and Fishery Science, Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. Understanding and determining where organic carbon (OC) ends up in the ocean and how long it remains there is one of the most pressing tasks of our time, as the fate of OC in the ocean links to the climate system. To provide an additional tool to accomplish this and other related tasks, we map and conceptualize OC pathways in a qualitative model. The model is complementary to existing concepts of OC processes and pathways which are based mainly on quantifications and observations of current states and dominant processes. Our model, on the contrary, presents general pathway patterns and embedded processes without focusing on dominant processes or pathways or omitting rare ones. By mapping, comparing, and condensing pathways and involved spatial scales, we define three remineralization and two recalcitrant dissolved organic carbon loops that close within the marine systems. Pathways that exit the marine system comprise inorganic atmospheric, OC atmospheric, and long-term sediment loops. With the defined loops and the embedded process options, the model is flexible and can be adapted to different systems, changing understanding or changing mechanisms. As such, it can help tracking pathway changes and assessing the impact of human interventions on pathways, marine ecosystems, and the oceanic organic carbon cycle.

Maike Iris Esther Scheffold and Inga Hense

Status: open (until 25 Oct 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on os-2021-75', Anonymous Referee #1, 17 Sep 2021 reply

Maike Iris Esther Scheffold and Inga Hense

Maike Iris Esther Scheffold and Inga Hense

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Short summary
Organic carbon in the oceans can take various paths: it may e.g. sink to the sediment, be eaten, or recycled to start all over again. Where carbon ends up for how long has implications for atmospheric CO2 concentrations and our climate. To assess which pathways exist and how they are structured, we introduce a qualitative concept of organic carbon pathways. This concept helps to identify pathways, compare ecosystems and assess how human actions and environmental changes alter pathways.