Iron partitioning during LOHAFEX: Copepod grazing as a major driver for iron recycling in the Southern Ocean

Dieter.Wolf-Gladrow [ at ]


eddy located along the Antarctic Polar Front in the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. Mixed layer (ML) waters were characterized by high nitrate (~20 μM), low dissolved iron (DFe ~0.2 nM) and low silicate concentrations (below 1 μM) restricting diatom growth. Upon initial fertilization, chlorophyll-a doubled during the first two weeks and stabilized thereafter, despite a second fertilization on day 21, due to an increase in grazing pressure. Biomass at the different trophic levels was mostly comprised of small autotrophic flagellates, the large copepod Calanus simillimus and the amphipod Themisto gaudichaudii. The downward flux of particulate material comprised mainly copepod fecal pellets that were remineralized in the upper 150 m of the water column with no significant deeper export. showed a greater variability (ranging from 0.3 to 1.3 nM) without a clear vertical pattern. Particulate iron concentrations (measured after 2 months at pH 1.4) decreased with time and showed a vertical pattern that indicated an important non-biogenic component at the bottom of the mixed layer. In order to assess the contribution of copepod grazing to iron cycling we used two different approaches: first, we measured for the first time in a field experiment copepod fecal pellet concentrations in the water column together with the iron content per pellet, and second, we devised a novel analytical scheme based on a two-step leaching protocol to estimate the contribution of copepod fecal pellets to particulate iron in the water column. Analysis of the iron content of isolated fecal pellets from C. simillimus showed that after the second fertilization, the iron content per fecal pellet was ~5 fold higher if the copepod had been captured in fertilized waters. We defined a new fraction termed leachable iron (pH 2.0) in 48 h (LFe48h) that, for the conditions during LOHAFEX, was shown to be an excellent proxy for the concentration of iron contained in copepod fecal pellets. We observed that, as a result of the second fertilization, iron accumulated in copepod fecal pellets and remained high at one third of the total iron stock in the upper 80 m. We hypothesize that our observations are due to a combination of two biological processes. First, phagotrophy of iron colloids freshly formed after the second fertilization by the predominant flagellate community resulted in higher Fe:C ratios per cell that, via grazing, lead to iron enrichment in copepod fecal pellets in fertilized waters. Second, copepod coprophagy could explain the rapid recycling of particulate iron in the upper 100–150 m, the accumulation of LFe48h in the upper 80 m after the second fertilization and provided the iron required for the maintenance of the LOHAFEX bloom for many weeks. Our results provide the first quantitative evidence of the major ecological relevance of copepods and their fecal products in the cycling of iron in silicate depleted areas of the Southern Ocean.

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DOI 10.1016/j.marchem.2017.08.011

Cite as
Laglera, L. M. , Tovar-Sanchez, A. , Iversen, M. , Gonzalez, H. , Naik, H. , Mangesh, G. , Assmy, P. , Klaas, C. , Mazzocchi, M. , Montresor, M. , Naqvi, S. , Smetacek, V. and Wolf-Gladrow, D. (2017): Iron partitioning during LOHAFEX: Copepod grazing as a major driver for iron recycling in the Southern Ocean , Marine Chemistry, 196 , pp. 148-161 . doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2017.08.011


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