Plankton Networks Driving Carbon Export in the Oligotrophic Ocean
The biological carbon pump is the process by which CO2 is transformed to organic carbon via photosynthesis, exported through sinking particles, and finally sequestered in the deep ocean. While the intensity of the pump correlates with plankton community composition, the underlying ecosystem structure driving the process remains largely uncharacterized. Here we use environmental and metagenomic data gathered during the Tara Oceans expedition to improve our understanding of carbon export in the oligotrophic ocean. We show that specific plankton communities, from the surface and deep chlorophyll maximum, correlate with carbon export at 150 m and highlight unexpected taxa such as Radiolaria and alveolate parasites, as well as Synechococcus and their phages, as lineages most strongly associated with carbon export in the subtropical, nutrient-depleted, oligotrophic ocean. Additionally, we show that the relative abundance of a few bacterial and viral genes can predict a significant fraction of the variability in carbon export in these regions.