Abstract

°The seasonal and sub-seasonal dynamics of iron availability within the sub-Antarctic zone (SAZ; 40–45°S) play an important role in the distribution, biomass and productivity of the phytoplankton community. The variability in iron availability is due to an interplay between winter entrainment, diapycnal diffusion, storm-driven entrainment, atmospheric deposition, iron scavenging and iron recycling processes. Biological observations utilizing grow-out iron addition incubation experiments were performed at different stages of the seasonal cycle within the SAZ to determine whether iron availability at the time of sampling was sufficient to meet biological demands at different times of the growing season. Here we demonstrate that at the beginning of the growing season, there is sufficient iron to meet the demands of the phytoplankton community, but that as the growing season develops the mean iron concentrations in the mixed layer decrease and are insufficient to meet biological demand. Phytoplankton increase their photosynthetic efficiency and net growth rates following iron addition from midsummer to late summer, with no differences determined during early summer, suggestive of seasonal iron depletion and an insufficient resupply of iron to meet biological demand. The result of this is residual macronutrients at the end of the growing season and the prevalence of the high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) condition. We conclude that despite the prolonged growing season characteristic of the SAZ, which can extend into late summer/early autumn, results nonetheless suggest that iron supply mechanisms are insufficient to maintain potential maximal growth and productivity throughout the season.

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Fv/Fm (a, c, e) and chlorophyll a (Chl a) responses (mg m3) (b, d, f), from the control and Fe addition treatments of experiments initiated in the sub-Antarctic zone over early summer (a, b), midsummer (c, d) and late summer (e, f). Displayed here are averages with standard deviations (n = 3-5 for all time points, except the end time point where n = 6-12; see Table S1 for exact sample numbers). Please note the different scales in panels (a) and (b).

Fv/Fm (a, c, e) and chlorophyll a (Chl a) responses (mg m3) (b, d, f), from the control and Fe addition treatments of experiments initiated in the sub-Antarctic zone over early summer (a, b), midsummer (c, d) and late summer (e, f). Displayed here are averages with standard deviations (n = 3-5 for all time points, except the end time point where n = 6-12; see Table S1 for exact sample numbers). Please note the different scales in panels (a) and (b).

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