Responses of ocean biogeochemistry to atmospheric supply of lithogenic and pyrogenic iron-containing aerosols

Research paper by Akinori Ito, Ying Ye, Akitomo Yamamoto, Michio Watanabe, Maki N. Aita

Indexed on: 21 May '20Published on: 01 May '20Published in: Geological magazine


Atmospheric supply of iron (Fe) to the ocean has been suggested to regulate marine productivity in large parts of the world’s ocean. However, there are still large uncertainties regarding how the atmospheric inputs of dissolved Fe (DFe) influence the seawater DFe concentrations and thus net primary production (NPP). Here, we use an atmospheric chemistry model and two ocean biogeochemistry models with high (Model H) and low (Model L) sensitivities to atmospheric sources of DFe to explore the responses of ocean biogeochemistry to different types of atmospheric inputs of DFe: mineral dust and combustion aerosols. When both Fe content in mineral dust of 3.5% and Fe solubility of 2% are prescribed in sensitivity simulations, the ocean models overestimate DFe concentration in the surface ocean downwind from the North African and East Asian dust plumes. Considering different degrees of atmospheric Fe processing reduces the overestimates of DFe concentration in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. The two ocean biogeochemistry models show substantially different magnitudes of responses to the atmospheric input of DFe. The more detailed Model H shows a much higher sensitivity of NPP to the change in combustion aerosols than to mineral dust, regardless of relative inputs of the sedimentary sources. This finding suggests that pyrogenic Fe-containing aerosols are more important sources of atmospheric bioavailable Fe for marine productivity than would be expected from the small amount of DFe deposition, especially in the Pacific and Southern oceans.