The interplay between regeneration and scavenging fluxes drives ocean iron cycling

Alessandro Tagliabue*, Andrew R. Bowie, Timothy DeVries, Michael J. Ellwood, William M. Landing, Angela Milne, Daniel C. Ohnemus, Benjamin S. Twining, Philip W. Boyd

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    43 Citations (Scopus)


    Despite recent advances in observational data coverage, quantitative constraints on how different physical and biogeochemical processes shape dissolved iron distributions remain elusive, lowering confidence in future projections for iron-limited regions. Here we show that dissolved iron is cycled rapidly in Pacific mode and intermediate water and accumulates at a rate controlled by the strongly opposing fluxes of regeneration and scavenging. Combining new data sets within a watermass framework shows that the multidecadal dissolved iron accumulation is much lower than expected from a meta-analysis of iron regeneration fluxes. This mismatch can only be reconciled by invoking significant rates of iron removal to balance iron regeneration, which imply generation of authigenic particulate iron pools. Consequently, rapid internal cycling of iron, rather than its physical transport, is the main control on observed iron stocks within intermediate waters globally and upper ocean iron limitation will be strongly sensitive to subtle changes to the internal cycling balance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number4960
    JournalNature Communications
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019


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