Prokaryotic communities display elevated trace metal concentrations in Pacific oxygen deficient zone

Local particulate maxima in many bioactive trace metals (cadmium, Cd; cobalt, Co; nickel, Ni; vanadium, V; and zinc, Zn) are found in the upper Oxygen Deficient Zone (ODZ), coincident with particulate phosporous (P) maxima that indicate biomass enrichments. This observation was made by Ohnemus and colleagues during the US GEOTRACES Eastern Pacific Zonal Transect (GP16) cruise which crossed the Pacific ODZ and oligotrophic gyre. Their data suggest elevated biotic accumulation of trace metals by ODZ organisms, by factors of 2 to 9 over surface mixed layer communities.

These observations raise many questions regarding the metal requirements and stoichiometric flexibilities of prokaryotes that dominate the ocean interior: Are particulate trace metal (pTM) associations unique to the ODZ? Do they occur because of access to generally larger inventories of dissolved TMs in the subsurface? Which metal enrichments are associated with which organisms? How do elevated–pTM associations in prokaryotic biomass relate to local and global cycling of pTMs throughout the oceans? There is no doubt that these new results open a wide field of research!


16 Ohnemus l
Figure: Metal:P biomass ratios in bulk particulate ODZ samples (black dots) compared to local mixed layer samples (red lines) demonstrate the elevated trace metal content of ODZ prokaryotic communities. All samples have been corrected for metals in lithogenic and scavenged iron-oxide phases. Click on the figure to view it larger.


Ohnemus, D. C., Rauschenberg, S., Cutter, G. A., Fitzsimmons, J. N., Sherrell, R. M. and Twining, B. S. (2016), Elevated trace metal content of prokaryotic communities associated with marine oxygen deficient zones. Limnol. Oceanogr. doi:10.1002/lno.10363

Latest highlights

Science Highlights

Surprisingly heavy silicon isotopes in the surface and deep Arctic Ocean

Brzezinski and his colleagues report on a comprehensive study of the Arctic Ocean silicic acid concentrations and silicon isotopic composition…


Science Highlights

Unique winter dataset of particulate and dissolved cadmium in the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean

Cloete and collaborators analysed particulate and dissolved cadmium at 7 stations in austral winter along a North South section off South Africa.


Science Highlights

A new proxy for ocean iron bioavailability

The approach established and verified in this study, opens a new way for determining dissolved iron bioavailability in samples across the ocean.


Science Highlights

Scavenging differentiates the distribution of cadmium, nickel, zinc and copper in the North Pacific Ocean

Zheng and co-authors observed sectional distributions of cadmium, nickel, zinc, and copper in the North Pacific Ocean during three GEOTRACES related cruises…