Biogeosciences (Apr 2010)

Influence of consumer-driven nutrient recycling on primary production and the distribution of N and P in the ocean

  • A. Nugraha,
  • P. Pondaven,
  • P. Tréguer

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 7, no. 4
pp. 1285 – 1305


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In this study we investigated the impact of consumer-driven nutrient recycling (CNR) on oceanic primary production and the distribution of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in the deep ocean. For this purpose, we used and extended two existing models: a 2-box model of N and P cycling in the global ocean (Tyrrell, 1999), and the model of Sterner (1990) which formalised the principles of CNR theory. The resulting model showed that marine herbivores may affect the supply and the stoichiometry of N and P in the ocean, thereby exerting a control on global primary production. The predicted global primary production was higher when herbivores were included in the model, particularly when these herbivores had higher N:P ratios than phytoplankton. This higher primary production was triggered by a low N:P resupply ratio, which, in turn, favoured the P-limited N<sub>2</sub>-fixation and eventually the N-limited non-fixers. Conversely, phytoplankton with higher N:P ratios increased herbivore yield until phosphorus became the limiting nutrient, thereby favouring herbivores with a low P-requirement. Finally, producer-consumer interactions fed back on the N and P inventories in the deep ocean through differential nutrient recycling. In this model, N deficit or N excess in the deep ocean resulted not only from the balance between N<sub>2</sub>-fixation and denitrification, but also from CNR, especially when the elemental composition of producers and consumers differed substantially. Although the model is fairly simple, these results emphasize our need for a better understanding of how consumers influence nutrient recycling in the ocean.