, Volume 83, Issue 1-3, pp 245-275,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 27 Apr 2007

Environmental constraints on the production and removal of the climatically active gas dimethylsulphide (DMS) and implications for ecosystem modelling


Seawater concentrations of the climate-cooling, volatile sulphur compound dimethylsulphide (DMS) are the result of numerous production and consumption processes within the marine ecosystem. Due to this complex nature, it is difficult to predict temporal and geographical distribution patterns of DMS concentrations and the inclusion of DMS into global ocean climate models has only been attempted recently. Comparisons between individual model predictions, and ground-truthing exercises revealed that information on the functional relationships between physical and chemical ecosystem parameters, biological productivity and the production and consumption of DMS and its precursor dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) is necessary to further refine future climate models. In this review an attempt is made to quantify these functional relationships. The description of processes includes: (1) parameters controlling DMSP production such as species composition and abiotic factors; (2) the conversion of DMSP to DMS by algal and bacterial enzymes; (3) the fate of DMSP-sulphur due to, e.g., grazing, microbial consumption and sedimentation and (4) factors controlling DMS removal from the water column such as microbial consumption, photo-oxidation and emission to the atmosphere. We recommend the differentiation of six phytoplankton groups for inclusion in future models: eukaryotic and prokaryotic picoplankton, diatoms, dinoflagellates, and other phytoflagellates with and without DMSP-lyase activity. These functional groups are characterised by their cell size, DMSP content, DMSP-lyase activity and interactions with herbivorous grazers. In this review, emphasis is given to ecosystems dominated by the globally relevant haptophytes Emiliania huxleyi and Phaeocystis sp., which are important DMS and DMSP producers.