Articles | Volume 7, issue 1
05 Jan 2010
 | 05 Jan 2010

Natural iron enrichment around the Antarctic Peninsula in the Southern Ocean

M. V. Ardelan, O. Holm-Hansen, C. D. Hewes, C. S. Reiss, N. S. Silva, H. Dulaiova, E. Steinnes, and E. Sakshaug

Abstract. As part of the US-AMLR program in January-February of 2006, 99 stations in the South Shetland Islands-Antarctic Peninsula region were sampled to understand the variability in hydrographic and biological properties related to the abundance and distribution of krill in this area. Concentrations of dissolved iron (DFe) and total acid-leachable iron (TaLFe) were measured in the upper 150 m at 16 of these stations (both coastal and pelagic waters) to better resolve the factors limiting primary production in this area and in downstream waters of the Scotia Sea. The concentrations of DFe and TaLFe in the upper mixed layer (UML) were relatively high in Weddell Sea Shelf Waters (~0.6 nM and 15 nM, respectively) and low in Drake Passage waters (~0.2 nM and 0.9 nM, respectively). In the Bransfield Strait, representing a mixture of waters from the Weddell Sea and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC), concentrations of DFe were ~0.4 nM and of TaLFe ~1.7 nM. The highest concentrations of DFe and TaLFe in the UML were found at shallow coastal stations close to Livingston Island (~1.6 nM and 100 nM, respectively). The ratio of TaLFe:DFe varied with the distance to land: ~45 at the shallow coastal stations, ~15 in the high-salinity waters of Bransfield Strait, and ~4 in ACC waters. Concentrations of DFe increased slightly with depth in the water column, while that of TaLFe did not show any consistent trend with depth. Our Fe data are discussed in regard to the hydrography and water circulation patterns in the study area, and with the hypothesis that the relatively high rates of primary production in the central regions of the Scotia Sea are partially sustained by natural iron enrichment resulting from a northeasterly flow of iron-rich coastal waters originating in the South Shetland Islands-Antarctic Peninsula region.

Final-revised paper