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Iron and manganese in the Ross Sea, Antarctica: Seasonal iron limitation in Antarctic shelf waters

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 12:18 authored by Sedwick, PN, DiTullio, GR, Mackey, DJ
© 2000 by the American Geophysical Union.Dissolved iron and manganese and total dissolvable iron were measured in water column samples collected from the polynya region of the southern Ross Sea during cruises in November-December 1994 (spring 1994) and December 1995 to January 1996 (summer 1995). Iron and manganese addition bottle incubation experiments were also performed during these cruises in order to assess the nutritional sufficiency of ambient iron and manganese concentrations for growth of the phytoplankton community. Generally high dissolved iron concentrations (> 0.5 n\f) and relatively complex iron and manganese vertical profiles were obtained during the spring cruise, compared with the summer 1995 data. Dissolved iron concentrations in the upper water column averaged 1.0 nM during spring 1994 and 0.23 nM in summer 1995. excluding two stations where concentrations exceeding 1 nM arc attributed to inputs from melting sea ice. The observed differences in the distribution of iron and manganese between spring 1994 and summer are attributed to seasonal decreases in the upwelling of bottom waters and melting of sea ice, which supply these metals into the upper water column, combined with the cumulative removal of iron and manganese from the water column throughout the spring and summer, due to biological uptake, vertical export and scavenging by suspended and sinking particles. Results of the metal addition bottle incubation experiments indicate that ambient dissolved iron concentrations are adequate for phytoplankton growth requirements during the spring and early summer, when algal production is highest and Phaeocystis antarctica dominates the algal community, whereas low dissolved iron concentrations limit algal community growth later in the summer, except in the stratified, iron-enriched waters near melting sea ice, where diatoms arc able to bloom. Our observations and the inferred seasonal distributions of P. antarctica and diatoms in these waters suggest that iron availability and vertical mixing (i.e., irradiance) exert the primary controls on phytoplankton growth and community structure in the southern Ross Sea during the spring and summer.


Publication title

Journal of Geophysical Research










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


American Geophysical Union

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Socio-economic Objectives

Measurement and assessment of marine water quality and condition

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