Journal of Oceanography

, Volume 64, Issue 3, pp 417–428 | Cite as

234Th/238U disequilibrium and particulate organic carbon export in the northern South China Sea

  • Weifang Chen
  • Pinghe Cai
  • Minhan Dai
  • Junfeng Wei
Original Articles


We utilized 234Th, a naturally occurring radionuclide, to quantify the particulate organic carbon (POC) export rates in the northern South China Sea (SCS) based on data collected in July 2000 (summer), May 2001 (spring) and November 2002 (autumn). Th-234 deficit was enhanced with depth in the euphotic zone, reaching a subsurface maximum at the Chl-a maximum in most cases, as commonly observed in many oceanic regimes. Th-234 was in general in equilibrium with 238U at a depth of ∼100 m, the bottom of the euphotic zone. In this study the 234Th deficit appeared to be less significant in November than in July and May. A surface excess of 234Th relative to 238U was found in the summer over the shelf of the northern SCS, most likely due to the accumulation of suspended particles entrapped by a salinity front. Comparison of the 234Th fluxes from the upper 10 m water column between 2-D and traditional 1-D models revealed agreement within the errors of estimation, suggesting the applicability of the 1-D model to this particular shelf region. 1-D model-based 234Th fluxes were converted to POC export rates using the ratios of bottle POC to 234Th. The values ranged from 5.3 to 26.6 mmol C m−2d−1 and were slightly higher than those in the southern SCS and other oligotrophic areas. POC export overall showed larger values in spring and summer than in autumn, the seasonality of which was, however, not significant. The highest POC export rate (26.6 mmol C m−2d−1) appeared at the shelf break in spring (May), when Chl-a increased and the community structure changed from pico-phytoplankton (<2 µm) dominated to nano-phytoplankton (2–20 µm) and micro-phytoplankton (20–200 µm) dominated.


234Th/238U disequilibrium POC export South China Sea 


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Copyright information

© The Oceanographic Society of Japan/TERRAPUB/Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Weifang Chen
    • 1
  • Pinghe Cai
    • 1
  • Minhan Dai
    • 1
  • Junfeng Wei
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental ScienceXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  2. 2.College of Environment and Chemical EngineeringDalian UniversityDalianChina

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