Nutrient uptake plasticity in phytoplankton sustains future ocean net primary production

Eun Young Kwon, M. G. Sreeush, Axel Timmermann, David M. Karl, Matthew J. Church, Sun Seon Lee, Ryohei Yamaguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Annually, marine phytoplankton convert approximately 50 billion tons of dissolved inorganic carbon to particulate and dissolved organic carbon, a portion of which is exported to depth via the biological carbon pump. Despite its important roles in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide via carbon sequestration and in sustaining marine ecosystems, model-projected future changes in marine net primary production are highly uncertain even in the sign of the change. Here, using an Earth system model, we show that frugal utilization of phosphorus by phytoplankton under phosphate-stressed conditions can overcompensate the previously projected 21st century declines due to ocean warming and enhanced stratification. Our results, which are supported by observations from the Hawaii Ocean Time-series program, suggest that nutrient uptake plasticity in the subtropical ocean plays a key role in sustaining phytoplankton productivity and carbon export production in a warmer world.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadd2475
JournalScience advances
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 2022


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