Iron limitation across chlorophyll gradients in the southern Drake Passage: Phytoplankton responses to iron addition and photosynthetic indicators of iron stress

Hopkinson, Brian M., B. Greg Mitchell, Rick A. Reynolds, Haili Wang, Karen E. Selph, Christopher I. Measures, Christopher D. Hewes, Osmund Holm-Hansen, Katherine A. Barbeau

Limnol. Oceanogr., 52(6), 2007, 2540-2554 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2007.52.6.2540

ABSTRACT: Processes influencing phytoplankton bloom development in the southern Drake Passage were studied using shipboard iron-enrichment incubations conducted across a surface chlorophyll gradient near the Antarctic Peninsula, in a region of water mass mixing. Iron incubation assays showed that Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) waters were severely iron limited, while shelf waters with high ambient iron concentrations (1-2 nmol L-1) were iron replete, demonstrating that mixing of the two water masses is a plausible mechanism for generation of the high phytoplankton biomass observed downstream of the Antarctic Peninsula. In downstream highchlorophyll mixed waters, phytoplankton growth rates were also iron limited, although responses to iron addition were generally more moderate as compared to ACC waters. Synthesizing results from all experiments, significant correlations were found between the initial measurements of Photosystem II (PSII) parameters (Fv:Fm, σPSII, and p) and the subsequent responses of these waters to iron addition. These correlations indicate that PSII parameters can be used to assess the degree of iron stress experienced in these waters and likely in other regions where photoinhibition and nitrogen stress are not confounding factors.

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