This study aimed to create the first model of biological iron (Fe) cycling in the Southern Ocean food web. Two biomass mass-balanced Ecopath models were built to represent pre- and post-whaling ecosystem states (1900 and 2008). Functional group biomasses (tonnes wet weight km−2) were converted to biogenic Fe pools (kg Fe km−2) using published Fe content ranges. In both models, biogenic Fe pools and consumption in the pelagic Southern Ocean were highest for plankton and small nektonic groups. The production of plankton biomass, particularly unicellular groups, accounted for the highest annual Fe demand. Microzooplankton contributed most to biological Fe recycling, followed by carnivorous zooplankton and krill. Biological Fe recycling matched previous estimates, and, under most conditions, could entirely meet the Fe demand of bacterioplankton and phytoplankton. Iron recycling by large baleen whales was reduced 10-fold by whaling between 1900 and 2008. However, even under the 1900 scenario, the contribution of whales to biological Fe recycling was negligible compared with that of planktonic consumers. These models are a first step in examining oceanic-scale biological Fe cycling, highlighting gaps in our present knowledge and key questions for future research on the role of marine food webs in the cycling of trace elements in the sea.
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’.
Electronic supplementary material is available online at https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3491595.
- Accepted August 17, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.