Perspective on identifying and characterizing the processes controlling iron speciation and residence time at the atmosphere–ocean interface


It is well recognized that the atmospheric deposition of iron (Fe) affects ocean productivity, atmospheric CO2 uptake, ecosystem diversity, and overall climate. Despite significant advances in measurement techniques and modeling efforts, discrepancies persist between observations and models that hinder accurate predictions of processes and their global effects. Here, we provide an assessment report on where the current state of knowledge is and where future research emphasis would have the highest impact in furthering the field of Fe atmosphere-ocean biogeochemical cycle. These results were determined through consensus reached by diverse researchers from the oceanographic and atmospheric science communities with backgrounds in laboratory and in situ measurements, modeling, and remote sensing. We discuss i) novel measurement methodologies and instrumentation that allow detection and speciation of different forms and oxidation states of Fe in deliquesced mineral aerosol, cloud/rainwater, and seawater; ii) oceanic models that treat Fe cycling with several external sources and sinks, dissolved, colloidal, particulate, inorganic, and organic ligand-complexed forms of Fe, as well as Fe in detritus and phytoplankton; and iii) atmospheric models that consider natural and anthropogenic sources of Fe, mobilization of Fe in mineral aerosols due to the dissolution of Fe-oxides and Fe-substituted aluminosilicates through proton-promoted, organic ligand-promoted, and photo-reductive mechanisms. In addition, the study identifies existing challenges and disconnects (both fundamental and methodological) such as i) inconsistencies in Fe nomenclature and the definition of bioavailable Fe between oceanic and atmospheric disciplines, and ii) the lack of characterization of the processes controlling Fe speciation and residence time at the atmosphere-ocean interface. Such challenges are undoubtedly caused by extremely low concentrations, short lifetime, and the myriad of physical, (photo)chemical, and biological processes affecting global biogeochemical cycling of Fe. However, we also argue that the historical division (separate treatment of Fe biogeochemistry in oceanic and atmospheric disciplines) and the classical funding structures (that often create obstacles for transdisciplinary collaboration) are also hampering the advancement of knowledge in the field. Finally, the study provides some specific ideas and guidelines for laboratory studies, field measurements, and modeling research required for improved characterization of global biogeochemical cycling of Fe in relationship with other trace elements and essential nutrients. The report is intended to aid scientists in their work related to Fe biogeochemistry as well as program managers at the relevant funding agencies.

Marine Chemistry