pp 1-38 | Cite as

Large-Scale, Persistent Nutrient Fronts of the World Ocean: Impacts on Biogeochemistry

  • Jaime B. Palter
  • Irina Marinov
  • Jorge L. Sarmiento
  • Nicolas Gruber
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series


This chapter identifies and describes the large-scale nutrient fronts that span the width of basins and explores the processes that maintain these fronts and those that act against them. In particular, we investigate the nutrient fronts that ring the subtropical gyres and propose that exchange across these fronts represents a critical pathway for nutrients to enter the gyres. However, these biogeochemical fronts most often coincide with dynamical fronts or jets, which are often considered barriers to exchange. Therefore, our view of ocean fronts as nutrient gateways must be reconciled with their tendency to act as barriers to exchange. Ekman transport is one mechanism that allows for nutrient transport across the surface of the fronts and is shown to be a leading term in the subtropical nutrient budgets. Ring formation and mixing beneath the core of jets are other mechanisms that can mediate cross-frontal exchange and have intriguing implications for nutrient budgets and their variability.


Lateral exchange Nutrients Ocean fronts Productivity 



The authors are grateful to Stephanie Schollaert-Uz, Ric Williams, and Igor Belkin for insightful reviews, which improved an early draft of this chapter. We thank John Dunne for his use of the particulate nutrient export data. We also gratefully acknowledge the many data and modeling resources used throughout this work that have been made available online: the AVISO group for compiling and making available satellite altimetry data and related products; the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) group for publishing several versions of the ECCO model output, including the Ocean Circulation on Climate Atlas (OCCA) used here; de Boyer Montegut and colleagues who have calculated mixed layer depths for the global ocean and continue updating the calculations with ARGO data; Risien and Chelton who have posted their climatology of global wind stress; and the NODC for publishing the World Ocean Atlas. Support from the Canada’s NSERC Discovery program, NOAA-Cooperative Institute for Climate Science Grant #NA08OAR4320752; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Commerce award NA07OAR4310096; and the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, Grant No. DE-FG02-07ER64467 are gratefully acknowledged. This material is based upon work partially supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0701252. All statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Department of Commerce, the US Department of Energy, NSERC, or the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaime B. Palter
    • 1
  • Irina Marinov
    • 2
  • Jorge L. Sarmiento
    • 3
  • Nicolas Gruber
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic SciencesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences ProgramPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  4. 4.Environmental PhysicsInstitute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant DynamicsZurichSwitzerland

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