Model estimates of metazoans' contributions to the biological carbon pump

J. Pinti*, T. Devries, T. Norin, C. Serra-Pompei, R. Proud, D.A. Siegel, T. Kiørboe, C.M. Petrik, K.H. Andersen, A.S. Brierley, A.W. Visser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The daily vertical migrations of fish and other metazoans actively transport organic carbon from the ocean surface to depth, contributing to the biological carbon pump. We use an oxygen-constrained, game-theoretic food-web model to simulate diel vertical migrations and estimate near-global (global ocean minus coastal areas and high latitudes) carbon fluxes and sequestration by fish and zooplankton due to respiration, fecal pellets, and deadfalls. Our model provides estimates of the carbon export and sequestration potential for a range of pelagic functional groups, despite uncertain biomass estimates of some functional groups. While the export production of metazoans and fish is modest (∼20 % of global total), we estimate that their contribution to carbon sequestered by the biological pump (∼800 PgC) is conservatively more than 50 % of the estimated global total (∼1300 PgC) and that they have a significantly longer sequestration timescale (∼250 years) than previously reported for other components of the biological pump. Fish and multicellular zooplankton contribute about equally to this sequestered carbon pool. This essential ecosystem service could be at risk from both unregulated fishing on the high seas and ocean deoxygenation due to climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)997-1009
Number of pages13
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2023


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