Inferring source regions and supply mechanisms of iron in the Southern Ocean from satellite chlorophyll data

Graham, Robert M., De Boer, Agatha M., van Sebille, Erik, Kohfeld, Karen E. and Schlosser, Christian (2015) Inferring source regions and supply mechanisms of iron in the Southern Ocean from satellite chlorophyll data Deep-Sea Research Part II-Topical Studies in Oceanography, 104 . pp. 9-25. DOI 10.1016/j.dsr.2015.05.007.

Graham.pdf - Published Version
Available under License ["licenses_description_cc_by_4.0" not defined].

Download (11Mb) | Preview

Supplementary data:



• Shelf sediment iron source concentrated around coastal margins.
• No large iron flux from sediments on shallow submerged plateaus in the open ocean.
• Horizontal advection of iron more important than upwelling of iron at ocean fronts.
• Western boundary currents major supply mechanism of iron for Sub-Antarctic Zone.


Primary productivity is limited by the availability of iron over large areas of the global ocean. Changes in the supply of iron to these regions could have major impacts on primary productivity and the carbon cycle. However, source regions and supply mechanisms of iron to the global oceans remain poorly constrained. Shelf sediments are considered one of the largest sources of dissolved iron to the global ocean, and a large shelf sediment iron flux is prescribed in many biogeochemical models over all areas of bathymetry shallower than 1000 m. Here, we infer the likely location of shelf sediment iron sources in the Southern Ocean, by identifying where satellite chlorophyll concentrations are enhanced over shallow bathymetry (<1000 m). We further compare chlorophyll concentrations with the position of ocean fronts, to assess the relative role of horizontal advection and upwelling for supplying iron to the ocean surface. We show that mean annual chlorophyll concentrations are not visibly enhanced over areas of shallow bathymetry that are located more than 500 km from a coastline. Mean annual chlorophyll concentrations >2 mg m−3 are only found within 50 km of a continental or island coastline. These results suggest that sedimentary iron sources only exist on continental and island shelves. Large sedimentary iron fluxes do not seem present on seamounts and submerged plateaus. Large chlorophyll blooms develop where the western boundary currents detach from the continental shelves, and turn eastward into the Sub-Antarctic Zone. Chlorophyll concentrations are enhanced along contours of sea surface height extending off the continental shelves, as shown by the trajectories of virtual water parcels in satellite altimetry data. These analyses support the hypothesis that bioavailable iron from continental shelves is entrained into western boundary currents, and advected into the Sub-Antarctic Zone along the Dynamical Subtropical Front. Our results indicate that upwelling at fronts in the open ocean is unlikely to deliver iron to the ocean surface from deep sources. Finally, we hypothesise how a reduction in sea level may have altered the distribution of shelf sediment iron sources in the Southern Ocean and increased export production over the Sub-Antarctic Zone during glacial intervals.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: WOS:000363078500002
Keywords: chlorophyll; shelf sediments; upwelling; ocean fronts; sea surface height; dust; glacial-interglacial cycles; HiGEM model
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-CH Chemical Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.dsr.2015.05.007
ISSN: 0967-0645
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2015 09:53
Last Modified: 19 Dec 2017 12:51

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item

Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...