Biofilm-like properties of the sea surface and predicted effects on air-sea CO2 exchange

Abstract : Because the sea surface controls various interactions between the ocean and the atmosphere, it has a profound function for marine biogeochemistry and climate regulation. The sea surface is the gateway for the exchange of climate-relevant gases, heat and particles. Thus, in order to determine how the ocean and the atmosphere interact and respond to environmental changes on a global scale, the characterization and understanding of the sea surface are essential. The uppermost part of the water column is defined as the sea-surface microlayer and experiences strong spatial and temporal dynamics, mainly due to meteorological forcing. Wave-damped areas at the sea surface are caused by the accumulation of surface-active organic material and are defined as slicks. Natural slicks are observed frequently but their biogeochemical properties are poorly understood. In the present study, we found up to 40 times more transparent exopolymer particles (TEP), the foundation of any biofilm, in slicks compared to the underlying bulk water at multiple stations in the North Pacific, South China Sea, and Baltic Sea. We found a significant lower enrichment of TEP (up to 6) in non-slick sea surfaces compared to its underlying bulk water. Moreover, slicks were characterized by a large microbial biomass, another shared feature with conventional biofilms on solid surfaces. Compared to non-slick samples (avg. pairwise similarity of 70%), the community composition of bacteria in slicks was increasingly (avg. pairwise similarity of 45%) different from bulk water communities, indicating that the TEP-matrix creates specific environments for its inhabitants. We, therefore, conclude that slicks can feature biofilm-like properties with the excessive accumulation of particles and microbes. We also assessed the potential distribution and frequency of slick-formation in coastal and oceanic regions, and their effect on air sea CO2 exchange based on literature data. We estimate that slicks can reduce CO2 fluxes by up to 15%, and, therefore, play important local and regional roles in regulating air sea interactions. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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Oliver Wurl, Christian Stolle, Chu Van Thuoc, Pham The Thu, Xavier Mari. Biofilm-like properties of the sea surface and predicted effects on air-sea CO2 exchange. Progress in Oceanography, Elsevier, 2016, 144, pp.15-24. 〈10.1016/j.pocean.2016.03.002〉. 〈hal-01443603〉



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