Manipulating iron availability in nearshore waters

Wells, Mark L.

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(4), 1999, 1002-1008 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.4.1002

ABSTRACT: The consideration of iron effects on marine ecosystems has focused mainly on high-nitrate low-chlorophyll regions, but iron likely has an equally important regulatory role in coastal waters. Iron requirements of neritic phytoplankton not only are comparatively high but also differ substantially among species, so that iron fluctuations within metal-replete systems should strongly influence the composition and distribution of phytoplankton assemblages. But unlike the simplicity of testing iron effects in iron-depleted waters, ascertaining iron effects in apparently replete waters has been forestalled by a lack of experimental tools that can regulate iron availability independent of other bioactive metals in seawater. I present here the results of size-fractionated shipboard culture experiments using the fungal siderophore desferriferrioxime B (DFB) to regulate iron availability in coastal upwelling waters. Addition of excess DFB essentially eliminated 59Fe uptake by both phytoplankton and heterotrophic bacteria over a 6-h period and allowed only marginal iron uptake over 5 d of incubation. Carbon uptake by small (0.2-5.0- um) phytoplankton was immediately curtailed upon addition of DFB, signifying a rapid onset of iron stress. In contrast, short-term (0-6 h) carbon uptake by larger (>5.0- um) phytoplankton was not affected, indicating that larger cells contained significant iron reserves. Nonetheless, carbon assimilation was substantially lower in DFB treatments relative to the controls after 5 d of incubation. Uptake of 54Mn, 65Zn, and 57Co was not immediately affected by DFB but then slowed after 4 h and was significantly lower after 5 d, presumably because iron limitation lowered the cellular requirements for these bioactive metals. These findings demonstrate that DFB can be used to manipulate biologically accessible iron to determine how iron affects algal community structure and carbon cycling in iron-replete waters.

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