Importance of planktonic community respiration on the carbon balance of the East China Sea in summer

Chung Chi Chen*, Kuo Ping Chiang, Gwo Ching Gong, Fuh Kwo Shiah, Chun Mao Tseng, Kon Kee Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The East China Sea (ECS) is one of the largest continental shelves in the world; however, the role that biota plays in the carbon fluxes of this shelf ecosystem is still obscure. To evaluate the organic carbon balance and the roles played by planktonic communities in organic carbon consumption, two cruises with stations covering almost the entire shelf were conducted during the high productivity and high river flow season of the ECS in June (the early summer) and August (the middle summer) 2003. Results showed that biological activity was significantly higher in the early summer. To flourish in the early summer, plankton need a significant fluvial input of dissolved inorganic nutrients and organic matter from the Chinese coast, especially from the Changjiang (aka Yangtze River), might be one of the main driving forces. Further analysis showed that most planktonic community respiration (PCR) could be attributed to phytoplankton and bacterioplankton, which accounted for over 96% of the total planktonic biomass (in carbon units) in summer. This might partially explain why mean PCR was higher in June (∼114 mg C m-3 d-1), with higher phytoplankton biomass, than in August (∼40 mg m-3 d-1). The ratio of integrated primary production to PCR (i.e., the P/R ratio) was, however, less than 1, with a mean ± SD value of 0.35 ± 0.41 for all the pooled data. This indicates a significant amount of organic carbon has been regenerated through planktonic activity in the water column. The sea-air difference in fCO2, however, changed from a mean value of -64.5 ± 61.3 ppm in June to 10.0 ± 37.5 ppm in August. To explain the contradictory results between PCR and fCO2, we suggest that the dissolved inorganic carbon regenerated through planktonic respiration could be stored in the subsurface layer and may affect the fCO2 in the surface water, which is what controls the shelf sea either as an atmospheric CO2 Sink or as a source, depending on the prevailing physical forces. These results also suggest that the controversy between atmospheric CO2 sink or source in the ECS shelf needs further exploration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberGB4001
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Dec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Atmospheric Science


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