29 Nov 2022
29 Nov 2022

Model estimates of metazoans' contributions to the biological carbon pump

Jérôme Pinti1,2, Tim DeVries3,4, Tommy Norin1, Camila Serra-Pompei1,5, Roland Proud6, David A. Siegel3,4, Thomas Kiørboe1, Colleen M. Petrik7,8, Ken H. Andersen1, Andrew S. Brierley6, and Andre W. Visser1 Jérôme Pinti et al.
  • 1VKR Centre for Ocean Life, Technical University of Denmark, 2800 Kongens Lyngby, Denmark
  • 2College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE 19958, USA
  • 3Department of Geography, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
  • 4Earth Research Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA
  • 5Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
  • 6Pelagic Ecology Research Group, School of Biology, Gatty Marine Laboratory, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK
  • 7Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, 3146 TAMU, USA
  • 8Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92107, USA

Abstract. The daily vertical migrations of fish and other metazoans actively transport organic carbon from the ocean surface to depth, contributing to the biological carbon pump. We use an oxygen-constrained, game-theoretic food-web model to simulate diel vertical migrations and estimate global carbon fluxes and sequestration by fish and zooplankton due to respiration, fecal pellets, and deadfalls. Our model provides estimates of the carbon export and sequestration potential for a range of pelagic functional groups, despite uncertain biomass estimates of some functional groups. While the export production of metazoans and fish is modest (∼20 % of global total), we estimate that their contribution to carbon sequestered by the biological pump (∼ 800 PgC) is conservatively more than 50 % of the estimated global total (∼1300 PgC) and have a significantly longer sequestration time scale (∼250 years) than previously reported for other components of the biological pump. Fish and multicellular zooplankton contribute about equally to this sequestered carbon pool. This essential ecosystem service could be at risk from both unregulated fishing on the high seas and ocean deoxygenation due to climate change.

Jérôme Pinti et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1227', Emma Cavan, 27 Jan 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Jerome Pinti, 30 Jan 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2022-1227', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 Jan 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Jerome Pinti, 01 Feb 2023

Jérôme Pinti et al.


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Short summary
Large numbers of marine organisms such as zooplankton and fish perform daily vertical migration between the surface (during nighttime) and the depths (during daytime). This fascinating migration is important for the carbon cycle, as these organisms actively bring carbon to depths, where it is stored away from the atmosphere for a long time. Here, we quantify the contributions of different animals to this carbon draw-down and storage, and show that fish are important to the biological carbon pump