The uptake of iron by phytoplankton is a key part of the marine iron cycle, but we still have a rudimentary understanding of the controls on this process. It is generally assumed that dissolved iron availability controls phytoplankton iron. Combining data from the GP16 GEOTRACES section and three other GEOTRACES-compliant cruises in the eastern Pacific, Twining et al. (2020, see reference below) show that phytoplankton iron contents (aka, quotas) vary 40-fold across environmental gradients. Further, taxa prone to nitrogen limitation such as diatoms accumulate iron more than expected, even under extremely low iron conditions. Modeling indicates that this is a widespread occurrence in the low-Fe oligotrophic Pacific. This study provides the first direct measurements of luxury iron uptake in natural communities and shows how it can vary between diatom taxa, with Pseudo-nitzschia able to accumulate luxury iron even in the low-Fe sub-Arctic North Pacific. These findings demonstrate the importance of biology and ecology to understanding iron biogeochemistry.
Twining, B. S., O. Antipova, P. D. Chappell, N. R. Cohen, J. Jacquot, E. L. Mann, A. Marchetti, D. C. Ohnemus, S. Rauschenberg, and A. Tagliabue. 2020. Taxonomic and nutrient controls on phytoplankton iron quotas in the ocean. Limnology & Oceanography Letters. Access the paper: https://aslopubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/lol2.10179