Trace metal cycling in the surface water of the South China Sea: Vertical fluxes, composition, and sources

Ho, Tung-Yuan, Wen-Chen Chou, Ching-Ling Wei, Hui-Ling Lin, George T. F. Wong, and Hui-Ling Lin

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(5), 2010, 1807-1820 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.5.1807

ABSTRACT: We deployed floating traps in the surface waters of the South China Sea on four occasions at depths of 30 m, 100 m, and 160 m from 2006 to 2007 to quantify vertical metal fluxes in the surface water and examine trace metal composition in the sinking particles to investigate their sources. The elements determined include 13 trace metals and 8 major elements. The fluxes for most of the bioactive elements at 30 m varied markedly during different seasons and strongly co-varied with organic matter production, but the fluxes at 160 m were low and consistent under different seasons, showing that most of the elements were internally recycled in the surface water during productive seasons. Most of the bioactive trace metals in sinking particles were correlated with biogenic P, and their P-normalized quotas were also strongly associated with lithogenic Al. The ratios of metals to Al and P for most of the bioactive trace metals were significantly higher than the ratios in lithogenic particles and than intracellular quotas in plankton, respectively, indicating that the trace metals in the sinking particles were abiogenic, nonlithogenic, and adsorbed on biogenic particles. The comparable fluxes between aeolian deposition and the sinking particles in the mixed layer demonstrate that the highly enriched trace metals in the sinking particles were attributed to input from anthropogenic aerosols. The coupling and transport of anthropogenic trace metals with biogenic particles in oceanic surface waters may be an important mechanism for trace metal cycling in global oceans.

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