- Photo-oxidation: Major sink of oxygen in the ocean surface layer
- Marine Chemistry
- Volume | Issue number
- 177 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
Evidence is presented that the oxygen demand associated with photochemical processes in the surface layer of oceans and seas worldwide is of the same order of magnitude as the amount of oxygen released by photosynthesis of the world's marine phytoplankton. Both estimates are of necessity quite rough and therefore the agreement between oxygen loss and production, earlier found only locally in the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, came as a surprise. The heavy photochemical oxygen demand of the world's oceans must be explored further in oxygen budget studies by biogeochemical modelling in which special attention is paid to regional and temporal differences in the vertical stratification regime at the surface. Indeed, stratification is the conditio sine qua non for photochemical processes that are driven by ultraviolet radiation. Oxygen cannot be expected to be released from the sea to the atmosphere in the permanently stratified open ocean when year-round the oxygen loss associated with photochemistry is so high. In the upper layer of sea and ocean regions of the temperate zone vertical stratification is only pronounced during spring, summer and early autumn, so photochemical oxygen demand there is restricted to those months. We argue that the constancy of the oxygen concentration observed at the surface of the oceans in the tropics and subtropics (80% of Earth's marine regions) is the consequence of the balance between three processes that influence oxygen dissolved in seawater: loss due to photochemical processes and to the activity of microheterotrophs on the one hand, photosynthetic oxygen production by phytoplankton on the other.
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