Mechanisms of dissolved and labile particulate iron supply to shelf waters and phytoplankton blooms off South Georgia, Southern Ocean

The island of South Georgia is situated in the iron (Fe) depleted Antarctic Circumpolar Current of the Southern Ocean. Iron emanating from its shelf system fuels large phytoplankton blooms downstream of the island, but the actual supply mechanisms are unclear. To address this we present the first inventory of Fe, manganese (Mn) and aluminium (Al) in shelf sediments, pore waters and the water column in the vicinity of South Georgia, alongside data on zooplankton-mediated Fe cycling processes. The seafloor sediments were the main particulate Fe source to shelf bottom waters as indicated by Fe / Mn and Fe / Al ratios for shelf sediments and suspended particles in the water column. Less than 1 % of the total particulate Fe pool was leachable surface adsorbed (labile) Fe, and therefore potentially available to organisms. Pore waters formed the primary dissolved Fe (DFe) source to shelf bottom waters supplying 0.1–4 μmol DFe m−2 d−1. However, only 0.41 ± 0.26 μmol DFe m−2 d−1 was transferred to the surface mixed layer by vertical diffusive and advective mixing. Other trace metal sources to surface waters included glacial flour released by melting glaciers and zooplankton excretion processes. On average 6.5 ± 8.2 μmol m−2 d−1 of labile particulate Fe was supplied to the surface mixed layer via krill faecal pellets, with further DFe released by krill at around 1.1 ± 2.2 μmol m−2 d−1. The faecal pellets released by krill constituted of seafloor derived lithogenic material and settled algae debris, in addition to freshly ingested suspended phytoplankton specimen. The phytoplankton Fe requirement in the blooms ca. 1250 km downstream the island of South Georgia was 0.33 ± 0.11 μmol m−2 d−1, with the DFe supply by horizontal/vertical mixing, deep winter mixing and via aeolian dust estimated as ~ 0.12 μmol m−2 d−1. We suggest that additionally required DFe was provided through recycling of biogenically stored Fe following luxury Fe uptake by phytoplankton on the Fe rich shelf. This process would allow Fe to be retained in the surface mixed layer of waters downstream of South Georgia through continuous recycling and biological uptake, and facilitate the large scale blooms.


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Authors: Schlosser, Christian, Schmidt, Katrin, Aquilina, Alfred, Homoky, William B., Castrillejo, Maxi, Mills, Rachel A., Patey, Matthew D. ORCIDORCID record for Matthew D. Patey, Fielding, Sophie ORCIDORCID record for Sophie Fielding, Atkinson, Angus, Achterberg, Eric P.

On this site: Sophie Fielding
22 August, 2018
Biogeosciences / 15
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