Seasonal variations in the nitrogen isotopic composition of settling particles at station K2 in the western subarctic North Pacific

Yoshihisa Mino, Chiho Sukigara, Makio C. Honda, Hajime Kawakami, Kazuhiko Matsumoto, Masahide Wakita, Minoru Kitamura, Tetsuichi Fujiki, Kosei Sasaoka, Osamu Abe, Jan Kaiser, Toshiro Saino

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Intensive observations using hydrographical cruises and moored sediment trap deployments during 2010 and 2012 at station K2 in the North Pacific western subarctic gyre (WSG) revealed seasonal changes in δ15N of both suspended and settling particles. Suspended particles (SUS) were collected from depths between the surface and 200 m; settling particles by drifting traps (DST; 100-200 m) and moored traps (MST; 200 and 500 m). All particles showed higher δ15N values in winter and lower in summer, contrary to the expected by isotopic fractionation during phytoplankton nitrate consumption. We suggest that these observed isotopic patterns are due to ammonium consumption via light-controlled nitrification, which could induce variations in δ15N(SUS) of 0.4-3.1 ‰ in the euphotic zone (EZ). The δ15N(SUS) signature was reflected by δ15 N(DST) despite modifications during biogenic transformation from suspended particles in the EZ. δ15 N enrichment (average: 3.6 ‰) and the increase in C:N ratio (by 1.6) in settling particles suggests year-round contributions of metabolites from herbivorous zooplankton as well as TEPs produced by diatoms. Accordingly,
seasonal δ15 N(DST) variations of 2.4-7.0 ‰ showed a significant correlation with primary productivity (PP) at K2. By applying the observed δ15 N(DST) vs. PP regression to δ15 N(MST) of 1.9-8.0 ‰, we constructed the first annual time-series of PP changes in the WSG. Moreover, the monthly export ratio at 500 m was calculated using both estimated PP and measured organic carbon fluxes. Results suggest a 1.6 to 1.8 times more efficient transport of photosynthetically-fixed carbon to the intermediate layers occurs in summer/autumn rather than winter/spring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819–836
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Oceanography
Issue number6
Early online date18 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • nitrogen isotopes
  • suspended and settling particles
  • nitrogen recycling
  • nitrification
  • primary productivity
  • export ratio

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