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Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans








Subantarctic Southern Ocean surface waters in the austral summer and autumn are characterized by high concentrations of nitrate and phosphate but low concentrations of dissolved iron (Fe, similar to0.05 nM) and silicic acid (Si, <1 muM). During the Subantarctic Zone AU9706 cruise in March 1998 we investigated the relative importance of Fe and Si in controlling phytoplankton growth and species composition at a station within the subantarctic water mass (46.8degreesS, 142degreesE) using shipboard bottle incubation experiments. Treatments included unamended controls; 1.9 nM added iron (+Fe); 9 muM added silicic acid (+Si); and 1.9 nM addediron plus 9 muM added silicic acid (+Fe+Si). We followed a detailed set of biological and biogeochemical parameters over 8 days. Fe added alone clearly increased community growth rates and nitrate drawdown and altered algal community composition relative to control treatments. Surprisingly, small, lightly silicified pennate diatoms grew when Fe was added either with or without Si, despite the extremely low ambient silicic acid concentrations. Pigment analyses suggest that lightly silicified chrysophytes (type 4 haptophytes) may have preferentially responded to Si added either with or without Fe. However, for many of the parameters measured the +Fe+Si treatments showed large increases relative to both the +Fe and +Si treatments. Our results suggest that iron is the proximate limiting nutrient for chlorophyll production, photosynthetic efficiency, nitrate drawdown, and diatom growth, but that Si also exerts considerable control over algal growth and species composition. Both nutrients together are needed to elicit a maximum growth response, suggesting that both Fe and Si play important roles in structuring the subantarctic phytoplankton community.

Original Publication Citation

Hutchins, D.A., Sedwick, P.N., DiTullio, G.R., Boyd, P.W., Queguiner, B., Griffiths, F.B., & Crossley, C. (2001). Control of phytoplankton growth by iron and silicic acid availability in the subantarctic Southern Ocean: Experimental results from the SAZ project. Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, 106(C12), 31559-31572. doi: 10.1029/2000JC000333