The supply of a range of nutrient elements to surface waters is an important driver of oceanic production and the subsequent linked cycling of the nutrients and carbon. Relative deficiencies of different nutrients with respect to biological requirements, within both surface and internal water masses, can be both a key indicator and driver of the potential for these nutrients to become limiting for the production of new organic material in the upper ocean. The availability of high-quality, full-depth and global-scale datasets on the concentrations of a wide range of both macro- and micro-nutrients produced through the international GEOTRACES programme provides the potential for estimation of multi-element deficiencies at unprecedented scales. Resultant coherent large-scale patterns in diagnosed deficiency can be linked to the interacting physical–chemical–biological processes which drive upper ocean nutrient biogeochemistry. Calculations of ranked deficiencies across multiple elements further highlight important remaining uncertainties in the stoichiometric plasticity of nutrient ratios within oceanic microbial systems and caveats with regards to linkages to upper ocean nutrient limitation.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
One contribution of 20 to a discussion meeting issue ‘Biological and climatic impacts of ocean trace element chemistry’.
- Accepted August 23, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.