Biological Control of Chromium Redox and Stable Isotope Composition in the Surface Ocean

Janssen, David J.; Rickli, Jörg; Quay, Paul; White, Angelicque; Nasemann, Philipp; Jaccard, Samuel L. (2020). Biological Control of Chromium Redox and Stable Isotope Composition in the Surface Ocean. Global biogeochemical cycles, 34(1) American Geophysical Union 10.1029/2019GB006397

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While chromium stable isotopes (δ53Cr) have received significant attention for their utility as a tracer of oxygen availability in the distant geological past, a mechanistic understanding of modern oceanic controls on Cr and δ53Cr is still lacking. Here we present total dissolved δ53Cr, concentrations of Cr (III) and total dissolved Cr, and net community productivity (NCP) from the North Pacific. Chromium concentrations show surface depletions in waters with elevated NCP, but not in lower productivity waters. Observed Cr deficits correspond well with calculated Cr export derived from NCP and Cr:C ratios of natural phytoplankton and marine particulates. Chromium (III) concentrations are stable over the diel cycle yet correlate with NCP, with maxima found in highly productive surface waters but not in lower productivity waters, indicating biological control on Cr (III). The relationship between Cr (III) and δ53Cr suggests that δ53Cr distributions may be controlled by the removal of isotopically light Cr (III) at an isotopic enrichment factor (53Cr) of −1.08‰ ± 0.25 relative to total dissolved δ53Cr, in agreement with the global δ53Cr‐Cr fractionation factor (−0.82‰ ± 0.05). No perturbation to δ53Cr, Cr, or Cr (III) is observed in oxygen‐depleted waters (~10 μmol/kg), suggesting no strong control by O2 availability, in agreement with other recent studies. Therefore, we propose that biological productivity is the primary control on Cr and δ53Cr in the modern ocean. Consequently, δ53Cr records in marine sediments may not faithfully record oxygen availability in the Late Quaternary; however, our data demonstrate that δ53Cr records may be a useful tracer for biological productivity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Janssen, David James, Rickli, Jörg Dominik, Nasemann, Philipp Heinrich, Jaccard, Samuel


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




American Geophysical Union




Samuel Jaccard

Date Deposited:

30 Jan 2020 11:06

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:36

Publisher DOI:





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