Seasonal and spatial variabilities in northern Gulf of Alaska surface water iron concentrations driven by shelf sediment resuspension, glacial meltwater, a Yakutat eddy, and dust

Authors


Abstract

Phytoplankton growth in the Gulf of Alaska (GoA) is limited by iron (Fe), yet Fe sources are poorly constrained. We examine the temporal and spatial distributions of Fe, and its sources in the GoA, based on data from three cruises carried out in 2010 from the Copper River (AK) mouth to beyond the shelf break. April data are the first to describe late winter Fe behavior before surface water nitrate depletion began. Sediment resuspension during winter and spring storms generated high “total dissolvable Fe” (TDFe) concentrations of ~1000 nmol kg−1 along the entire continental shelf, which decreased beyond the shelf break. In July, high TDFe concentrations were similar on the shelf, but more spatially variable, and driven by low-salinity glacial meltwater. Conversely, dissolved Fe (DFe) concentrations in surface waters were far lower and more seasonally consistent, ranging from ~4 nmol kg−1 in nearshore waters to ~0.6–1.5 nmol kg−1 seaward of the shelf break during April and July, despite dramatic depletion of nitrate over that period. The reasonably constant DFe concentrations are likely maintained during the year across the shelf by complexation by strong organic ligands, coupled with ample supply of labile particulate Fe. The April DFe data can be simulated using a simple numerical model that assumes a DFe flux from shelf sediments, horizontal transport by eddy diffusion, and removal by scavenging. Given how global change is altering many processes impacting the Fe cycle, additional studies are needed to examine controls on DFe in the Gulf of Alaska.