Disassembling iron availability to phytoplankton

Yeala Shaked*, Hagar Lis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations

Abstract

The bioavailability of iron to microorganisms and its underlying mechanisms have far reaching repercussions to many natural systems and diverse fields of research, including ocean biogeochemistry, carbon cycling and climate, harmful algal blooms, soil and plant research, bioremediation, pathogenesis, and medicine. Within the framework of ocean sciences, short supply and restricted bioavailability of Fe to phytoplankton is thought to limit primary production and curtail atmospheric CO2 drawdown in vast ocean regions. Yet a clear-cut definition of bioavailability remains elusive, with elements of iron speciation and kinetics, phytoplankton physiology, light, temperature, and microbial interactions, to name a few, all intricately intertwined into this concept. Here, in a synthesis of published and new data, we attempt to disassemble the complex concept of iron bioavailability to phytoplankton by individually exploring some of its facets. We distinguish between the fundamentals of bioavailability - the acquisition of Fe-substrate by phytoplankton - and added levels of complexity involving interactions among organisms, iron, and ecosystem processes. We first examine how phytoplankton acquire free and organically bound iron, drawing attention to the pervasiveness of the reductive uptake pathway in both prokaryotic and eukaryotic autotrophs. Turning to acquisition rates, we propose to view the availability of various Fesubstrates to phytoplankton as a spectrum rather than an absolute "all or nothing." We then demonstrate the use of uptake rate constants to make comparisons across different studies, organisms, Fe-compounds, and environments, and for gaging the contribution of various Fe-substrates to phytoplankton growth in situ. Last, we describe the influence of aquatic microorganisms on iron chemistry and fate by way of organic complexation and bio-mediated redox transformations and examine the bioavailability of these bio-modified Fe species.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Volume3
Issue numberAPR
DOIs
StatePublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Bioavailability
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Iron
  • Organic complexation
  • Phytoplankton
  • Redox reactions
  • Speciation
  • Uptake

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