Iron-stimulated changes in13C fractionation and export by equatorial Pacific phytoplankton: Toward a paleogrowth rate proxy Academic Article uri icon


  • We present delta(13)C values for phytol, an algal biomarker, which document up to 7 per mil isotopic enrichment during the IronEx II iron fertilization experiment. We evaluate these data using a laboratory-derived C-13 fractionation model and show this variability is largely the result of elevated growth rates. Isotopic enrichment and stimulation of growth rate were accompanied by a sevenfold increase in the export of particulate organic carbon as estimated from Th-234 activities. This is the first direct evidence that enhanced productivity following iron enrichment can lead to both increased export of organic matter and an associated isotopic signal in an algal biomarker. On the basis of these results, we propose biomarker isotopic data be used in conjunction with paleo-CO2 records to reconstruct paleogrowth rates. This approach provides a means to test for iron-stimulated changes in algal growth in sedimentary records.

publication date

  • October 1999