Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Frontiers in Marine Science




778 (1-12 pp.)


Optical instruments can rapidly determine numbers and characteristics of water column particles with high sensitivity. Here we show the usefulness of optically assessed total particle volume below the main pycnocline to estimate carbon export in two systems: the open subarctic North Atlantic and the Ross Sea, Antarctica. Both regions exhibit seasonally high phytoplankton production and efficient export (i.e., a strong biological pump). Total particle volumes in the mesopelagic (200-300 m) were significantly correlated with those in the overlying surface mixed layer (50-60 m), indicating that most particles at depth reflect export from the surface. This connectivity, however, is modulated by the physical structure of the water column and by particle type (e.g., the presence of colonies of the haptophyte Phaeocystis antarctica versus diatoms). Evidence from both regions show that a strong pycnocline can delay or may even prevent particles from settling to deeper layers, which then succumb to disintegration, and microbial and zooplankton consumption. Strong katabatic winds in the Ross Sea may deepen the mixed layer, causing a rapid transfer of particles to mesopelagic depths through the mixed-layer pump. Independent estimates of seasonally integrated export production in the Ross Sea, based on upper water column carbon mass balance, were significantly correlated (in the order of shared variance) with (1) total particle volumes from images, (2) particulate organic carbon, and (3) chlorophyll fluorescence, all recorded at a depth range of 200-300 m. Carbon export was not significantly correlated with particle abundance measured by a Coulter counter at the same depth range. Measuring total particle volume below the primary pycnocline is therefore a useful approach to estimate carbon export at least in regions characterized by seasonally high particle export.


© 2019 Bochdansky, Dunbar, Hansell and Herndl.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CCBY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Data Availability

Article states: "North Atlantic expedition: contextual data at; Ross Sea expedition: All raw data from the VPP and the CTD context data were archived at BCO-DMO cross-listed under the name of the principal investigator (AB), and the National Science Foundation research cruise number (NBP1302). All bottle inorganic carbon system data are available at under the name of RD ("

Archived data matching principal investigator (Alexander Bochdansky) and cruise number (NBP1302) is located at:

Original Publication Citation

Bochdansky, A. B., Dunbar, R. B., Hansell, D. A., & Herndl, G. J. (2019). Estimating carbon flux from optically recording total particle volume at depths below the primary pycnocline. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6, 778. doi:10.3389/fmars.2019.00778