Implementation of a method to determine sub-nanomolar concentrations of iron in seawater and its application to the study of marine iron biogeochemistry at the ocean-shelf interface
The aim of this study was to improve our understanding of the marine iron cycle using a newly implemented technique to measure dissolved iron in seawater. The setting up of a flow-injection analyser with chemiluminescence detection (FIACL) for Fe(II) proved to be non-trivial. Extensive work was undertaken to solve problems relating to our limited level of understanding of the CL reaction, and the variable behaviour of the resins prepared to preconcentrate iron. An analyser for Fe(II)+(III) was optimised, and careful assessment of data demonstrated the high quality of the information interpreted in this study, from the Celtic Sea shelf edge (Northeast Atlantic), and from the North Scotia Ridge (Southern Ocean). The distribution of iron at the Celtic Sea shelf edge was examined, and was used to provide a conceptual framework for future studies. Dissolved Fe (< 0.4 µm) concentrations were measured in samples from nine vertical profiles taken across the continental slope (160 – 2950 m water depth). Dissolved iron concentrations varied between 0.2 and 5.4 nM, and the resulting detailed section showed evidence of a range of processes influencing the iron distributions. The presence of elevated levels of dissolved Fe near the seafloor was consistent with release of Fe from in situ particulate organic matter remineralisation at two upper slope stations, and possibly of pore water release upon resuspension on shelf. Lateral transport of dissolved iron was evident in an intermediate nepheloid layer and its advection along an isopycnal. Surface waters at the shelf break also showed evidence of vertical mixing of deeper iron-rich waters. The data also suggest some degree of stabilisation of relatively high concentrations of iron, presumably through ligand association or as colloids. The possibility of iron limitation of phytoplankton at the shelf edge was not ruled out despite obvious depletion of nitrate. This study supports the view that export of dissolved iron laterally to the ocean’s interior from shelf and coastal zones may have important implications for the global budget of oceanic iron. A set of surface samples collected on a survey between the Falkland Islands and South Georgia were analysed for total dissolvable iron. Results suggested a source of benthic iron near South Georgia. A shift in photo-physiology of phytoplankton towards South Georgia was probably influenced by the transition from iron-limited to iron-replete populations. These results therefore strongly support the hypothesis that South Georgia may be a "pulse-point" of iron to high-nutrient low-chlorophyll waters.