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Introduction to the project DUNE, a DUst experiment in a low Nutrient, low chlorophyll Ecosystem

August 5, 2013

The main goal of the project DUNE was to estimate the impact of atmospheric deposition on an oligotrophic ecosystem based on mesocosm experiments simulating strong atmospheric inputs of Aeolian dust. Atmospheric deposition is now recognized as a significant source of macro- and micro-nutrients for the surface ocean, but the quantification of its role on the biological carbon pump is still poorly determined. We proposed in DUNE to investigate the role of atmospheric inputs on the functioning of an oligotrophic system particularly well adapted to this kind of study: the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean Sea – etymologically, sea surrounded by land – is submitted to atmospheric inputs that are very variable both in frequency and intensity. During the thermal stratification period, only atmospheric deposition is prone to fertilize Mediterranean surface waters which has become very oligotrophic due to the nutrient depletion (after the spring bloom). This paper describes the objectives of DUNE and the implementation plan of a series of mesocosms experiments during which either wet or dry and a succession of two wet deposition fluxes of 10 gm−2 of Saharan dust have been simulated. After the presentation of the main biogeochemical initial conditions of the site at the time of each experiment, a general overview of the papers published in this special issue is presented, including laboratory results on the solubility of trace elements in erodible soils in addition to results from the mesocosm experiments. Our mesocosm experiments aimed at being representative of real atmospheric deposition events onto the surface of oligotrophic marine waters and were an original attempt to consider the vertical dimension in the study of the fate of atmospheric deposition within surface waters. Results obtained can be more easily extrapolated to quantify budgets and parameterize processes such as particle migration through a “captured water column”. The strong simulated dust deposition events were found to impact the dissolved concentrations of inorganic dissolved phosphorus, nitrogen, iron and other trace elements. In the case of Fe, adsorption on sinking particles yields a decrease in dissolved concentration unless binding ligands were produced following a former deposition input and associated fertilization. For the first time, a quantification of the C export induced by the aerosol addition was possible. Description and parameterization of biotic (heterotrophs and autotrophs, including diazotrophs) and abiotic processes (ballast effect due to lithogenic particles) after dust addition in sea surface water, result  in a net particulate organic carbon export in part controlled by the “lithogenic carbon pump”.

Guieu C, Dulac F, Ridame C, Pondaven P, 2013, Introduction to the project DUNE, a DUst experiment in a low Nutrient, low chlorophyll Ecosystem, Biogeosc. Discuss., 10, 12491-12527, doi:10.5194/bgd-10-12491-2013. Article.

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