Publications

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2011
King, AL, Barbeau KA.  2011.  Dissolved iron and macronutrient distributions in the southern California Current System. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 116   10.1029/2010jc006324   AbstractWebsite

The distribution of dissolved iron in the southern California Current System (sCCS) is presented from seven research cruises between 2002 and 2006. Dissolved iron concentrations were generally low in most of the study area (<0.5 nM), although high mixed layer and water column dissolved iron concentrations (up to 8 nM) were found to be associated with coastal upwelling, both along the continental margin and some island platforms. A significant supply of iron was probably not from a deep remineralized source but rather from the continental shelf and bottom boundary layer as identified in previous studies along the central and northern California coast. With distance offshore, dissolved iron decreased more rapidly relative to nitrate in a transition zone 10-250 km offshore during spring and summer, resulting in relatively high ratios of nitrate: dissolved iron. Higher nitrate: dissolved iron ratios could be the result of utilization and scavenging in addition to an overall lower supply of iron relative to nitrate in the offshore transition zones. The low supply of iron leads to phytoplankton iron limitation and a depletion in silicic acid relative to nitrate in the coastal upwelling and transition zones of the sCCS.

2008
Hopkinson, BM, Barbeau KA.  2008.  Interactive influences of iron and light limitation on phytoplankton at subsurface chlorophyll maxima in the eastern North Pacific. Limnology and Oceanography. 53:1303-1318.   10.4319/lo.2008.53.4.1303   AbstractWebsite

The roles of iron and light as limiting and colimiting factors for phytoplankton growth in subsurface chlorophyll maxima (SCMs) were investigated in mesotrophic to oligotrophic waters of the Southern California Bight and the eastern tropical North Pacific using microcosm manipulation experiments. Phytoplankton responses indicative of iron-light colimitation were found at several SCMs underlying macronutrient-limited surface waters in the eastern Pacific. Iron additions led to a shift in the size and taxonomic structure of the phytoplankton community, where large diatoms dominated what was formerly a diverse community of relatively small phytoplankton. The strongest and most ubiquitous responses of diatoms to iron addition were found under elevated light conditions, indicating that iron availability may have the greatest potential to affect SCM phytoplankton communities when light levels increase rapidly, such as during eddy events or with strong internal waves. The results show that iron influences phytoplankton community structure at SCMs, which would have consequences for nutrient cycling and carbon export within the lower euphotic zone.

2007
King, AL, Barbeau K.  2007.  Evidence for phytoplankton iron limitation in the southern California Current System. Marine Ecology-Progress Series. 342:91-103.   10.3354/meps342091   AbstractWebsite

Observations of phytoplankton iron limitation in the world's oceans have primarily been confined to high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll (HNLC) regimes, found in the western equatorial and subarctic Pacific, Southern Ocean, and coastal upwelling zones off California and Peru. We investigated the potential for phytoplankton iron limitation in coastal transition zones (50 to 200 km offshore) of the southern California Current System, a weak upwelling regime that is relatively low in nutrients (< 4 mu mol nitrate 1(-1)) and low in chlorophyll (< 1 mu g chl a 1(-1)). In grow-out incubation experiments conducted during summer, July 2003 and 2004, phytoplankton responded to nanomolar iron additions, despite the non-HNLC initial conditions, Observed changes in phytoplankton and nutrient parameters upon iron addition were significant, although markedly lower in amplitude relative to typical grow-out experiments in HNLC regimes. While we cannot disprove alternate explanations for the observed limitation of phytoplankton growth, such as a proximate grazing control, our results indicate that phytoplankton growth in the southern California Current System is, at times, limited by the supply of iron. Based on our findings and the results of previous studies in this region, we suggest that phytoplankton biomass is generally limited by the supply of nitrate, while iron, directly or indirectly, influences macronutrient utilization, community species composition, and phytoplankton spatial and temporal distribution.