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Silicon isotopes in spring Southern Ocean diatoms: Large zonal changes despite homogeneity among size fractions

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 18:52 authored by Cardinal, D, Savoye, N, Trull, TW, Dehairs, F, Kopczynska, EE, Fripiat, F, Tison, J-L, Andre, L
We determine Southern Ocean diatom silicon isotopic signatures and compare them with the previously published data for dissolved silicic acid from the same locations. Five stations distributed along the WOCE SR-3 transect (Australian Sector of the Southern Ocean) in different biogeochemical provinces are presented: Polar Front and Inter-Polar Front Zones (PFZ–IPFZ), Southern Antarctic Zone (AZ-S), Seasonal Ice Zone (SIZ). Total (> 0.4 μm), medium-sized (20–70 μm), and large diatoms (> 70 μm) were sampled at 2–4 depths in the upper 150 m. Silicon isotopic compositions of biogenic silica (diatoms) and seawater were then measured by MC-ICP-MS, in dry plasma mode using external Mg doping. Results are expressed as δ29Si relative to the NBS28 standard. The isotopic composition of diatoms (δ29SiBSi) is generally homogeneous in the mixed layer and does not exhibit a systematic isotopic fractionation linked to a size effect. δ29SiBSi are always lighter than the ambient dissolved silicic acid signatures (δ29SiDSi), reflecting the preferential uptake of light isotopes by diatoms. A trend of lighter isotopic signatures southward is observed both in diatoms and seawater samples but the δ29SiBSi latitudinal gradient is much steeper. A diatom signature as low as − 0.26‰ in the southernmost SIZ station strongly contrasts with the + 0.65‰ signature measured on PFZ diatoms. The difference between the ambient dissolved silicic acid and diatom isotopic signatures, Δ29Si, strongly increases southward: from 0.4 in the PFZ up to 1.08‰ in the SIZ. This points toward occurrence of mixing events in the PFZ–IPFZ with diatoms not being under equilibrium with their surrounding water and/or, possible variation of the diatom–seawater equilibrium fractionation factor, 29ε. Apart from mixing, we found that the other parameters likely responsible of such variation are temperature, dissolved Si contents and, Si specific uptake and dissolution rates although at this stage none of these could be clearly recognized as the leading cause. Thorough examination of these parameters through in vitro experiments reflecting the extreme Southern Ocean conditions is needed to determine whether the observed latitudinal variation of Δ29Si reflects real variable fractionation or results from non-equilibrium or different time-scales recorded between dissolved and biogenic Si isotopic signatures. Our results also call for the development of more realistic models for describing short-term isotopic composition changes due to e.g. Si consumption, export and resupply via mixing. Finally, by comparing δ29SiBSi within and below the mixed layer, we could identify a two-step history of the PFZ–IPFZ bloom in contrast to the recently started diatom bloom in the SIZ.


Publication title

Marine Chemistry










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science BV

Place of publication

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Measurement and assessment of marine water quality and condition

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