Seabirds and marine mammals redistribute bioavailable iron in the Southern Ocean

TitleSeabirds and marine mammals redistribute bioavailable iron in the Southern Ocean
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsWing S.R, Jack L., Shatova O., Leichter J.J, Barr D., Frew R.D, Gault-Ringold M.
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Date Published2014/09
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number0171-8630
Accession NumberWOS:000342457800001
Keywordsallochthonous input; Biological vector; carbon; diomedea-epomophora; Fe; Fisheries; food webs; islands; Micronutrient; new-zealand; nitrogen; phytoplankton; Primary productivity; stable-isotopes; Sub-Antarctic; Trophic position

Biological vectors are important for redistribution of nutrients in many ecological systems. While availability of iron (Fe) to phyto plankton limits pelagic productivity in the Southern Ocean, biomagnification within marine food webs can lead to high concentrations of Fe in the diet of seabirds and marine mammals. We investigated patterns in concentrations of the micronutrients Fe, Co, Zn and Mn, and the toxins Cd and As, in the guano of oceanic, coastal and predatory seabirds and in faeces of 2 species of marine mammals that congregate to breed in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands. We found that much of the variability in concentrations of Fe, Co, Zn and Mn among species could be explained by foraging behaviour and by trophic position. We observed concentrations of Fe to be 8 orders of magnitude higher in the guano of predators and coastal foragers than in the sub-Antarctic mixed layer. High concentrations of As and Cd were associated with organic matter sources from macroalgae. Analyses of the molar ratio Fe:Al indicated that Fe within food webs supporting seabirds has likely been extensively recycled from its lithogenic source. Patterns in Fe:N among species indicated that Fe is concentrated 2 to 4 orders of magnitude in the guano of seabirds compared to limiting conditions for phytoplankton growth in sub-Antarctic waters. These data highlight the potential role of seabirds and marine mammals in the redistribution of micronutrients in the Southern Ocean and their likely role as key nutrient vectors in the ecosystem, particularly around the sub-Antarctic islands during the breeding season.

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