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Sci Adv. 2017 Jun 23;3(6):e1700314. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1700314. eCollection 2017 Jun.

High particulate iron(II) content in glacially sourced dusts enhances productivity of a model diatom.

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Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, New York, NY 10964, USA.
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
Department of Environmental Science, Barnard College at Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
Department of Ecological Sciences, University of Chile, Av. Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins 1058, Santiago, Chile.
Center for Earth Science Research, National University of Córdoba, Av. Haya de la Torre s/n, Córdoba, Argentina.


Little is known about the bioavailability of iron (Fe) in natural dusts and the impact of dust mineralogy on Fe utilization by photosynthetic organisms. Variation in the supply of bioavailable Fe to the ocean has the potential to influence the global carbon cycle by modulating primary production in the Southern Ocean. Much of the dust deposited across the Southern Ocean is sourced from South America, particularly Patagonia, where the waxing and waning of past and present glaciers generate fresh glaciogenic material that contrasts with aged and chemically weathered nonglaciogenic sediments. We show that these two potential sources of modern-day dust are mineralogically distinct, where glaciogenic dust sources contain mostly Fe(II)-rich primary silicate minerals, and nearby nonglaciogenic dust sources contain mostly Fe(III)-rich oxyhydroxide and Fe(III) silicate weathering products. In laboratory culture experiments, Phaeodactylum tricornutum, a well-studied coastal model diatom, grows more rapidly, and with higher photosynthetic efficiency, with input of glaciogenic particulates compared to that of nonglaciogenic particulates due to these differences in Fe mineralogy. Monod nutrient accessibility models fit to our data suggest that particulate Fe(II) content, rather than abiotic solubility, controls the Fe bioavailability in our Fe fertilization experiments. Thus, it is possible for this diatom to access particulate Fe in dusts by another mechanism besides uptake of unchelated Fe (Fe') dissolved from particles into the bulk solution. If this capability is widespread in the Southern Ocean, then dusts deposited to the Southern Ocean in cold glacial periods are likely more bioavailable than those deposited in warm interglacial periods.


diatoms; dust; iron bioavailability; iron mineralogy; particulate iron; subantarctic Southern Ocean

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