Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean

Zbigniew S. Kolber, Richard T. Barber, Kenneth H. Coale, Steve E. Fitzwateri, Richard M. Greene, Kenneth S. Johnson, Steven Lindley, Paul Falkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

267 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

THE surface waters of the equatorial Pacific have unusually high nitrate and phosphate concentrations, but relatively low phyto-plankton biomass 1-3. This 'high nitrate, low chlorophyll' (HNLC)4 phenomenon has been ascribed to 'top-down' grazing pressure by herbivores, which prevent the phytoplankton from fully utilizing the available nutrients 5. In the late 1980s, however, Martin and co-workers proposed that iron, which is delivered to the remote open ocean in aeolean dust6, is the key factor limiting the standing crop of phytoplankton in HNLC areas 7,8. Using a sensitive fluor-escence method9, we have followed changes in photochemical energy conversion efficiency9-10 of the natural phytoplankton com-munity both before and after artificial enrichment with iron of a small area (7.5 x 7.5 km) of the equatorial Pacific Ocean11. Our results show that iron limits phytoplankton photosynthesis in all size classes in this region by impairing intrinsic photochemical energy conversion, thereby supporting the hypothesis of physiologi-cal ('bottom up') limitation by this element.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-149
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume371
Issue number6493
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994
Externally publishedYes

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photosynthesis
phytoplankton
iron
ocean
nitrate
chlorophyll
grazing pressure
biomass
open ocean
limiting factor
plankton
herbivore
phosphate
surface water
nutrient
energy conversion

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Cite this

Kolber, Z. S., Barber, R. T., Coale, K. H., Fitzwateri, S. E., Greene, R. M., Johnson, K. S., ... Falkowski, P. (1994). Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Nature, 371(6493), 145-149. https://doi.org/10.1038/371145a0
Kolber, Zbigniew S. ; Barber, Richard T. ; Coale, Kenneth H. ; Fitzwateri, Steve E. ; Greene, Richard M. ; Johnson, Kenneth S. ; Lindley, Steven ; Falkowski, Paul. / Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In: Nature. 1994 ; Vol. 371, No. 6493. pp. 145-149.
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Kolber, ZS, Barber, RT, Coale, KH, Fitzwateri, SE, Greene, RM, Johnson, KS, Lindley, S & Falkowski, P 1994, 'Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean', Nature, vol. 371, no. 6493, pp. 145-149. https://doi.org/10.1038/371145a0

Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. / Kolber, Zbigniew S.; Barber, Richard T.; Coale, Kenneth H.; Fitzwateri, Steve E.; Greene, Richard M.; Johnson, Kenneth S.; Lindley, Steven; Falkowski, Paul.

In: Nature, Vol. 371, No. 6493, 01.01.1994, p. 145-149.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - THE surface waters of the equatorial Pacific have unusually high nitrate and phosphate concentrations, but relatively low phyto-plankton biomass 1-3. This 'high nitrate, low chlorophyll' (HNLC)4 phenomenon has been ascribed to 'top-down' grazing pressure by herbivores, which prevent the phytoplankton from fully utilizing the available nutrients 5. In the late 1980s, however, Martin and co-workers proposed that iron, which is delivered to the remote open ocean in aeolean dust6, is the key factor limiting the standing crop of phytoplankton in HNLC areas 7,8. Using a sensitive fluor-escence method9, we have followed changes in photochemical energy conversion efficiency9-10 of the natural phytoplankton com-munity both before and after artificial enrichment with iron of a small area (7.5 x 7.5 km) of the equatorial Pacific Ocean11. Our results show that iron limits phytoplankton photosynthesis in all size classes in this region by impairing intrinsic photochemical energy conversion, thereby supporting the hypothesis of physiologi-cal ('bottom up') limitation by this element.

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Kolber ZS, Barber RT, Coale KH, Fitzwateri SE, Greene RM, Johnson KS et al. Iron limitation of phytoplankton photosynthesis in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Nature. 1994 Jan 1;371(6493):145-149. https://doi.org/10.1038/371145a0