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Brzezinski, MA, Krause JW, Bundy RM, Barbeau KA, Franks P, Goericke R, Landry MR, Stukel MR.  2015.  Enhanced silica ballasting from iron stress sustains carbon export in a frontal zone within the California Current. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans. 120:4654-4669.   10.1002/2015jc010829   AbstractWebsite

Nutrient dynamics, phytoplankton rate processes, and export were examined in a frontal region between an anticyclone and a pair of cyclones 120 km off the coast in the southern California Current System (sCCS). Low silicic acid: nitrate ratios (Si:N) and high nitrate to iron ratios (N: Fe) characteristic of Fe-limiting conditions in the sCCS were associated with the northern cyclone and with the transition zone between the cyclones and the anticyclone. Phytoplankton growth in low-Si:N, high-N:Fe waters responded strongly to added Fe, confirming growth limitation by Fe of the diatom-dominated phytoplankton community. Low Si: N waters had low biogenic silica content, intermediate productivity, but high export compared to intermediate Si: N waters indicating increased export efficiency under Fe stress. Biogenic silica and particulate organic carbon (POC) export were both high beneath low Si: N waters with biogenic silica export being especially enhanced. This suggests that relatively high POC export from low Si: N waters was supported by silica ballasting from Fe-limited diatoms. Higher POC export efficiency in low Si: N waters may have been further enhanced by lower rates of organic carbon remineralization due to reduced grazing of more heavily armored diatoms growing under Fe stress. The results imply that Fe stress can enhance carbon export, despite lowering productivity, by driving higher export efficiency.

Hopkinson, BM, Seegers B, Hatta M, Measures CI, Mitchell BG, Barbeau KA.  2013.  Planktonic C:Fe ratios and carrying capacity in the southern Drake Passage. Deep-Sea Research Part Ii-Topical Studies in Oceanography. 90:102-111.   10.1016/j.dsr2.2012.09.001   AbstractWebsite

The carbon to iron (C:Fe) ratio of planktonic biomass constrains net production in iron-limited regions of the ocean and is an important parameter for predicting biomass production from iron inputs. On a cruise to the southern Drake Passage in July-August 2006, we used two approaches to determine the C:Fe ratio of planktonic material: dual-radiotracer labeling and net biomass production in iron-limited grow-out experiments. There was variability in C:Fe ratios among experiments, but values from the two methods overlapped with average values of 1.4 x 10(5) (mol:mol) for the radiotracer method and 1.7 x 10(5) for the net biomass production method. This is notable since the net biomass production method is a new approach to determine C:Fe ratios. Although it has potential issues related to bottle effects and sensitivity to trace contamination, the method avoids some of the questions associated with iron speciation and bioavailability since ambient iron supports production. Because light intensity is known to affect C:Fe ratios in phytoplankton through photosynthetic iron demands, we tested the effect of light level on C:Fe in Antarctic assemblages. In contrast to what is seen in many phytoplankton cultures, C:Fe ratios increased at low-light, but we suspect that this is due to initial photoinhibition of the low-light adapted winter assemblages at higher light levels. (c) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

Barbeau, K, Moffett JW.  2000.  Laboratory and field studies of colloidal iron oxide dissolution as mediated by phagotrophy and photolysis. Limnology and Oceanography. 45:827-835. AbstractWebsite

In a previous work, we have employed colloidal ferrihydrite impregnated with an inert radiotracer to probe the mechanistics of iron redox cycling in seawater via phagotrophic and photochemical processes. This paper reports further studies using the inert tracer technique, directed towards obtaining a more quantitative sense of the importance of phagotrophy relative to photolysis as a pathway for the production of bioavailable iron in oxygenated seawater. Our results indicate a maximal (i.e., near-surface at noon) rate of 12% per day for the photochemically-mediated dissolution of colloidal ferrihydrite. Protozoan-mediated dissolution of the same iron oxide phase proceeds at a rate ranging from 1-6% per day, depending on grazing turnover rates. Thus, while photolysis should dominate the redox cycling of refractory iron solids in near-surface waters under bright daytime conditions, phagotrophy is likely to be a more important process overall when the entire euphotic zone is considered on a time-averaged basis.