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Limnology and Oceanography








In the Southern Ocean, it is well‐known that iron (Fe) limits phytoplankton growth. Yet, other trace metals can also affect phytoplankton physiology. This study investigated feedbacks between phytoplankton growth and dissolved Fe, manganese (Mn), cobalt (Co), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and cadmium (Cd) concentrations in Southern Ocean shipboard incubations. Three experiments were conducted in September–October 2016 near the West Antarctic Peninsula: Incubations 1 and 3 offshore in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, and Incubation 2 inshore in Bransfield Strait. Additions of Fe and/or vitamin B12 to inshore and offshore waters were employed and allowed assessment of metal (M) uptake relative to soluble reactive phosphorus (P) across a wide range of initial conditions. Offshore, treatments of >1 nmol L−1 added Fe were Fe‐replete, whereas inshore waters were already Fe‐replete. Results suggest Mn was a secondary limiting nutrient inshore and offshore. No Fe‐vitamin B12 colimitation was observed. Overall, M:P uptake in the incubations was closely related to initial dissolved M:P for Fe, Mn, Co, Ni, and Cd, and for Cu inshore. Final concentrations of Fe and Zn were similar across light treatments of the experiments despite very different phytoplankton responses, and we observed evidence for Co/Cd/Zn substitution and for recycling of biogenic metals as inventories plateaued. In dark bottles, the absence of Mn oxidation may have allowed more efficient recycling of Fe and other trace metals. Our results provide insight into factors governing trace metal uptake, with implications for phytoplankton community composition locally and preformed micronutrient bioavailability in Southern Ocean water masses.


This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-DC) License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

Data Availability

Article states: "Chlorophyll, macronutrient, and trace metal data from the three incubation experiments are available through the NSF Biological & Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO) (Buck et al. 2018a, 2019a,b,c; Chappell et al. 2022)"

Links to data as shown in article references are:

Buck et al., 2018a: 10.1575/1912/bco-dmo.743072.1

Buck et al., 2019a: 10.1575/1912/bco-dmo.781759.1

Buck et al., 2019b: 10.1575/1912/bco-dmo.781827.1

Buck et al., 2019c: 10.1575/1912/bco-dmo.781841.1

Chappell et al., 2022: 10.26008/1912/bco-dmo.742206.1

Original Publication Citation

Burns, S. M., Bundy, R. M., Abbott, W., Abdala, Z., Sterling, A. R., Chappell, P. D., Jenkins, B. D., & Buck, K. N. (2023). Interactions of bioactive trace metals in shipboard Southern Ocean incubation experiments. Limnology & Oceanography, 68(3), 525-543.


0000-0002-9666-8405 (Abdala), 0000-0001-5212-6228 (Chappell)


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