Why are biotic iron pools uniform across high- and low-iron pelagic ecosystems?
Boyd, PW and Strzepek, RF and Ellwood, MJ and Hutchins, DA and Nodder, SD and Twining, BS and Wilhelm, SW, Why are biotic iron pools uniform across high- and low-iron pelagic ecosystems?, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 29, (7) pp. 1028-1043. ISSN 0886-6236 (2015) [Refereed Article]
Dissolved iron supply is pivotal in setting global phytoplankton productivity and pelagic ecosystem structure. However, most studies of the role of iron have focussed on carbon biogeochemistry within pelagic ecosystems, with less effort to quantify the iron biogeochemical cycle. Here we compare mixed-layer biotic iron inventories from a low-iron (~0.06 nmol L−1) subantarctic (FeCycle study) and a seasonally high-iron (~0.6 nmol L−1) subtropical (FeCycle II study) site. Both studies were quasi-Lagrangian, and had multi-day occupation, common sampling protocols, and indirect estimates of biotic iron (from a limited range of available published biovolume/carbon/iron quotas). Biotic iron pools were comparable (~100 ± 30 pmol L−1) for low- and high-iron waters, despite a tenfold difference in dissolved iron concentrations. Consistency in biotic iron inventories (~80 ± 24 pmol L−1, largely estimated using a limited range of available quotas) was also conspicuous for three Southern Ocean polar sites. Insights into the extent to which uniformity in biotic iron inventories was driven by the need to apply common iron quotas obtained from laboratory cultures were provided from FeCycle II. The observed twofold to threefold range of iron quotas during the evolution of FeCycle II subtropical bloom was much less than reported from laboratory monocultures. Furthermore, the iron recycling efficiency varied by fourfold during FeCycle II, increasing as stocks of new iron were depleted, suggesting that quotas and iron recycling efficiencies together set biotic iron pools. Hence, site-specific differences in iron recycling efficiencies (which provide 20–50% and 90% of total iron supply in high- and low-iron waters, respectively) help offset the differences in new iron inputs between low- and high-iron sites. Future parameterization of iron in biogeochemical models must focus on the drivers of biotic iron inventories, including the differing iron requirements of the resident biota, and the subsequent fate (retention/export/recycling) of the biotic iron.