In this study, 12C and 13C contents of all carbon containing state variables (dissolved inorganic and organic carbon, detrital carbon, and the carbon content of autotrophs and heterotrophs) have for the first time been explicitly included in a coupled physical–biogeochemical Baltic Sea model.
Different processes in the carbon cycling have distinct fractionation values, resulting in specific isotopic fingerprints. Thus, in addition to simulating concentrations of different tracers, our new model formulation improves the possibility to constrain the rates of processes such as CO2 assimilation, mineralization, and air–sea exchange.
We demonstrate that phytoplankton production and respiration, and the related air–sea CO2 fluxes, are to a large degree controlling the isotopic composition of organic and inorganic carbon in the system. The isotopic composition is further, but to a lesser extent, influenced by river loads and deep water inflows as well as transformation of terrestrial organic carbon within the system.
Changes in the isotopic composition over the 20th century have been dominated by two processes — the preferential release of 12C to the atmosphere in association with fossil fuel burning, and the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea related to increased nutrient loads under the second half of the century.