Decomposing the effects of ocean warming on chlorophyll a concentrations into physically and biologically driven contributions
Schellnhuber, Hans J.
- Journal Article
Rights / licenseCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
Recently compiled observational data suggest a substantial decline in the global median chlorophyll a concentration over the 20th century, a trend that appears to be linked to ocean warming. Several modelling studies have considered changes in the ocean's physical structure as a possible cause, while experimental work supports a biological mechanism, namely an observed increase in zooplankton grazing rate that outpaces phytoplankton production at higher temperatures. Here, we present transient simulations derived from a coupled ocean general circulation and carbon cycle model forced by atmospheric fields under unabated anthropogenic global warming (IPCC SRES A1FI scenario). The simulations account for both physical and biological mechanisms, and can reproduce about one quarter of the observed chlorophyll a decline during the 20th century, when using realistically parameterized temperature sensitivity of zooplankton metabolism (Q10 between 2 and 4) and phytoplankton growth (Q10 ~ 1.9). Therefore, we have employed and re-calibrated the standard ecosystem model which assumes a lower temperature sensitivity of zooplankton grazing (Q10 = 1.1049) by re-scaling phytoplankton growth rates and zooplankton grazing rates. Our model projects a global chlorophyll a decline of >50% by the end of the 21st century. While phytoplankton abundance and chlorophyll a experience pronounced negative effects, primary production and zooplankton concentrations are less sensitive to ocean warming. Although changes in physical structure play an important role, much of the simulated change in chlorophyll a and productivity is related to the uneven temperature sensitivity of the marine ecosystem Show more
Journal / seriesEnvironmental Research Letters
Pages / Article No.
PublisherInstitute of Physics
SubjectOcean biogeochemistry; Phytoplankton; Carbon cycle; Climate change; Global modelling study
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