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Co-limitation of diatoms by iron and silicic acid in the equatorial Pacific

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 13:45 authored by Brzezinski, MA, Baines, SB, Balch, WM, Beucher, CP, Chai, F, Dugdale, RC, Krause, JW, Landry, MR, Marchi, A, Measures, CI, Nelson, DM, Parker, AE, Poulton, AJ, Selph, KE, Peter StruttonPeter Strutton, Taylor, AG, Twining, BS
The relative roles of silicon (Si) and iron (Fe) as limiting nutrients in the eastern equatorial Pacific (EEP) were examined in a series of nine microcosm experiments conducted over two years between 110°W and 140°W longitude. Si and Fe additions had consistently different but synergistic effects on macronutrient use, phytoplankton biomass and phytoplankton community structure. Silicon addition increased silicic acid use and biogenic silica production, but had no significant effect on the use of inorganic nitrogen or orthophosphate, chlorophyll accumulation, particulate inorganic (PIC) carbon accumulation, or plankton community composition relative to controls. That result, together with observations that Si addition increased the cellular Si content of the numerically dominant diatom by ~50%, indicates that the main effect of Si was to regulate diatom silicification. Like the effect of Si, Fe addition increased the rate of silicic acid use and biogenic silica production and had no effect on PIC production. Unlike the effect of Si, Fe addition also enhanced rates of organic matter production, had no effect on cellular Si content of diatoms, and resulted in the growth of initially rare, large (>40 μm) diatoms relative to controls, indicating that Fe limitation acts mainly through its effects on growth rate and phytoplankton community composition. A pennate diatom of the genus Pseudo-nitzschia dominated the diatom assemblage in situ, grew readily in the controls and did not show a strong growth response to either Fe or Si addition suggesting that its growth was regulated by other factors such as grazing or light. Addition of germanium, an inhibitor of diatom cell division, eliminated the effects of Fe on macronutrient use, biogenic silica production and chlorophyll accumulation and phytoplankton community composition, consistent with a predominantly diatom response to Fe addition. The lack of a response of PIC production to Fe suggests that coccolithophores were not Fe limited. Addition of Fe and Si together resulted in the greatest levels of nutrient drawdown and biomass accumulation through the effect of Fe in promoting the growth of large diatoms. The results suggest a form of co-limitation with Si regulating diatom silicification and the rate of biogenic silica production while Fe regulates the production of organic matter through limitation of phytoplankton growth rates, in particular those of large diatoms. The results argue against Si regulation of new production in the EEP under average upwelling conditions. Iron addition was necessary and sufficient to stimulate complete removal of nitrate within the equatorial upwelling zone suggesting that new production was restricted by low ambient dissolved Fe consistent with results from in situ Fe fertilization experiments conducted to the south of the equator outside of the equatorial upwelling zone.


Publication title

Deep-Sea Research. Part 2: Topical Studies in Oceanography








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Pergamon-Elsevier Science Ltd

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The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Ox5 1Gb

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Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

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Expanding knowledge in the earth sciences

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