Shelf-derived iron inputs drive biological productivity in the southern Drake Passage Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • In the Southern Ocean near the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) fronts interact with shelf waters facilitating lateral transport of shelf-derived components such as iron into high-nutrient offshore regions. To trace these shelf-derived components and estimate lateral mixing rates of shelf water, we used naturally occurring radium isotopes. Short-lived radium isotopes were used to quantify the rates of shelf water entrainment while Fe/228Ra ratios were used to calculate the Fe flux. In the summer of 2006 we found rapid mixing and significant lateral iron export, namely, a dissolved iron flux of 1.1 × 105 mol d?1 and total acid leachable iron flux of 1.1 × 106 mol d?1 all of which is transported in the mixed layer from the shelf region offshore. This dissolved iron flux is significant, especially considering that the bloom observed in the offshore region (0.5–2 mg chl a m?3) had an iron demand of 1.1 to 4 × 105 mol Fe. Net vertical export fluxes of particulate Fe derived from 234Th/238U disequilibrium and Fe/234Th ratios accounted for only about 25% of the dissolved iron flux. On the other hand, vertical upward mixing of iron rich deeper waters provided only 7% of the lateral dissolved iron flux. We found that similarly to other studies in iron-fertilized regions of the Southern Ocean, lateral fluxes overwhelm vertical inputs and vertical export from the water column and support significant phytoplankton blooms in the offshore regions of the Drake Passage.

publication date

  • December 2009