Vestigial metals in the Southern Ocean and their global impact

Some metals, as iron, zinc, manganese and cobalt, that are present in extreme low concentrations in the oceans, possess important biological functions, acting like vitamins in the Human body. These “vitamins”, iron specially, can be limiting factors of phytoplankton [1] primary production, and that way, conditioning all the trophic webs and a range of mechanisms associated to them, with deeply implications to the ecosystems.

Iron deposition (μmol m–2 yr–1) dissolved in the superficial waters of Southern Ocean.

For this reason, along the last decades had been studied these metals content in the Southern Ocean waters, on a way to understand their role in some physical, chemical and biological phenomenon. This way, mostly of the Southern Ocean regions have a high concentration of nutrients and a low chlorophyll concentration, what confirms the hypothesis of the relevant role of iron for oceans biological activities. A detailed study of the role of these “vitamins” will allow to understand how phytoplankton growing, can induce the carbon sequester released to the atmosphere by humans and their impact on the global climate change.

[1] group of aquatic microscopic organisms that have photosynthetic capacity and live dispersal floating in the water column


Source: Measures, C.I., M. Hatta, and M.M. Grand. 2012. Bioactive trace metal distributions andbiogeochemical controls in the Southern Ocean. Oceanography 25(3):122–133. doi: 10.5670/oceanog.2012.85

Author: Hugo Oliveira