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Keywords:

  • dust;
  • iron limitation;
  • North Atlantic;
  • primary production;
  • spring bloom

Abstract

We present in situ biophysical measurements and bioassay experiments that demonstrate iron limitation of primary productivity during the spring bloom in the central North Atlantic. Mass balance calculations indicate that nitrate drawdown is iron (Fe)-limited and that aeolian Fe supply to this region cannot support maximal phytoplankton growth during the bloom. Using a simple simulation model, we show that relief of Fe limitation during the spring bloom can increase nitrate drawdown and, hence, new primary production, by 70%. We conclude that the episodic nature of iron supplied by dust deposition is an important factor controlling the dynamics of the spring bloom. From this, we hypothesize that variability in the timing and magnitude of the spring bloom in response to aeolian Fe supply will affect carbon drawdown and food web dynamics in the central North Atlantic.