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Insights into the biogeochemical cycling of iron, nitrate, and phosphate across a 5,300 km South Pacific Zonal Section (153°E-150°W)

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 17:02 authored by Ellwood, MJ, Andrew BowieAndrew Bowie, Baker, A, Melanie EastMelanie East, Hassler, C, Law, CS, Maher, WA, Marriner, A, Nodder, S, Sander, S, Stevens, C, Ashley TownsendAshley Townsend, Pier van der MerwePier van der Merwe, Woodward, EMS, Kathrin WuttigKathrin Wuttig, Philip BoydPhilip Boyd
Iron, phosphate, and nitrate are essential nutrients for phytoplankton growth, and hence, their supply into the surface ocean controls oceanic primary production. Here we present a GEOTRACES zonal section (GP13; 30–33°S, 153°E–150°W) extending eastward from Australia to the oligotrophic South Pacific Ocean gyre outlining the concentrations of these key nutrients. Surface dissolved iron concentrations are elevated at >0.4 nmol L−1 near continental Australia (west of 165°E) and decreased eastward to ≤0.2 nmol L−1 (170°W–150°W). The supply of dissolved iron into the upper ocean (<100 m) from the atmosphere and vertical diffusivity averaged 11 ± 10 nmol m−2 d−1. In the remote South Pacific Ocean (170°W–150°W), atmospherically sourced iron is a significant contributor to the surface dissolved iron pool with average supply contribution of 23 ± 17% (range 3% to 55%). Surface water nitrate concentrations averaged 5 ± 4 nmol L−1 between 170°W and 150°W, while surface water phosphate concentrations averaged 58 ± 30 nmol L−1. The supply of nitrogen into the upper ocean is primarily from deeper waters (24–1647 μmol m−2 d−1) with atmospheric deposition and nitrogen fixation contributing <1% to the overall flux along the eastern part of the transect. The deep water N:P ratio averaged 14.5 ± 0.5 but declined to <1 above the deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) indicating a high N:P assimilation ratio by phytoplankton leading to almost quantitative removal of nitrate. The supply stoichiometry for iron and nitrogen relative to phosphate at and above the DCM declines eastward leading to two biogeographical provinces: one with diazotroph production and the other without diazotroph production.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Global Biogeochemical Cycles








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Amer Geophysical Union

Place of publication

2000 Florida Ave Nw, Washington, USA, Dc, 20009

Rights statement

Copyright 2018 American Geophysical Union

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Oceanic processes (excl. in the Antarctic and Southern Ocean)

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