Trace metal and nutrient dynamics across broad biogeochemical gradients in the Indian and Pacific sectors of the Southern Ocean

Janssen, David J.; Sieber, Matthias; Ellwood, Michael J.; Conway, Tim M.; Barrett, Pamela M.; Chen, Xiaoyu; de Souza, Gregory F.; Hassler, Christel S.; Jaccard, Samuel L. (2020). Trace metal and nutrient dynamics across broad biogeochemical gradients in the Indian and Pacific sectors of the Southern Ocean. Marine chemistry, 221, p. 103773. Elsevier 10.1016/j.marchem.2020.103773

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The Southern Ocean is the largest high-nutrient low-chlorophyll environment in the global ocean, and represents an important source of intermediate and deep waters to lower latitudes. Constraining Southern Ocean trace metal biogeochemical cycling is therefore important not just for understanding biological productivity and carbon cycling regionally, but also for understanding trace metal distributions throughout the lower latitude oceans. We present dissolved Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb and macronutrient concentrations in the Indian and Pacific sectors of the Southern Ocean from the Antarctic Circumnavigation Expedition (austral summer 2016-17), which included the first opportunities to study trace metal cycling at the Mertz Glacier Polynya and the Balleny Islands, as well as two meridional cross-frontal transects. Dissolved Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd and macronutrient concentrations show similar or greater variability latitudinally within surface waters than vertically through the water column, reflecting the combined influence of circulation and biological drawdown in shaping the distributions of nutrient-type elements in the Southern Ocean. Slopes of Cu-Si(OH)4 and Cd-PO4 increase from the Polar Frontal Zone to south of the Southern ACC Boundary (Cu-Si(OH)4) and from the Subantarctic Zone to the Antarctic Zone (Cd-PO4). Latitudinal differences are also observed for Ni-Si(OH)4 and Zn-PO4, with distinct Subantarctic Zone trends relative to those south of the Polar Front. Similarities between our Zn-Si(OH)4 and Cd-PO4 correlations and global compilations reflect the importance of exported Southern Ocean waters in setting these metal-macronutrient couples globally. Distinct Ni-macronutrient correlations are observed in this dataset relative to the global ocean, which supports a distinct cycling of Ni in the Southern Ocean compared to other basins. Concentrations of Pb are among the lowest observed in the global ocean; however, a local maximum is seen along the density level corresponding with Antarctic Intermediate Water. Concentrations within this isopycnal decrease with increasing latitude, which can be explained by decreasing atmospheric Pb input to more recently subducted waters.

Substantial biological uptake of metals and macronutrients is observed at the Mertz Glacier Polynya. Here, inferred metal:macronutrient uptake ratios are comparable to those found in the Amundsen Sea Polynya, in Southern Ocean phytoplankton, and to metal-macronutrient correlations in our data set as a whole, highlighting the potential of Southern Ocean polynyas as natural systems for trace metal uptake and export studies. The Balleny Islands are a source of Fe to surface waters and the islands also appear to influence distributions of Zn, Cu and macronutrients, which may reflect the combined impact of Fe supply on biological uptake, mixing, and scavenging in deeper waters. The Kerguelen Plateau is also a source of Fe, as previously identified. Throughout our dataset, the ferricline is found deeper than the nitricline, in agreement with existing data and indicating that Fe is less easily entrained into the surface ocean than NO3. Additionally, Fe:NO3 ratios in most samples throughout the water column are Fe-limiting (<0.01 mmol mol−1). Therefore deep mixing, identified previously as the main Fe source to much of the Southern Ocean, would ultimately act to maintain Fe limitation.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Janssen, David James, Jaccard, Samuel


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology








David James Janssen

Date Deposited:

25 Mar 2020 10:59

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:37

Publisher DOI:





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