Wolff, George A., Billett, David S.M., Bett, Brian J., Holtvoeth, Jens, FitzGeorge-Balfour, Tania, Fisher, Elizabeth H., Cross, Ian, Shannon, Roger, Salter, Ian, Boorman, Ben, King, Nicola J., Jamieson, Alan and Chaillan, Frédéric
The Effects of Natural Iron Fertilisation on Deep-Sea Ecology: The Crozet Plateau, Southern Indian Ocean
PLoS ONE, 6, (6), . (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020697).
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The addition of iron to high-nutrient low-chlorophyll (HNLC) oceanic waters stimulates phytoplankton, leading to greater primary production. Large-scale artificial ocean iron fertilization (OIF) has been proposed as a means of mitigating anthropogenic atmospheric CO2, but its impacts on ocean ecosystems below the photic zone are unknown. Natural OIF, through the addition of iron leached from volcanic islands, has been shown to enhance primary productivity and carbon export and so can be used to study the effects of OIF on life in the ocean. We compared two closely-located deep-sea sites (~400 km apart and both at ~4200 m water depth) to the East (naturally iron fertilized; +Fe) and South (HNLC) of the Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. Our results suggest that long-term geo-engineering of surface oceanic waters via artificial OIF would lead to significant changes in deep-sea ecosystems. We found that the +Fe area had greater supplies of organic matter inputs to the seafloor, including polyunsaturated fatty acid and carotenoid nutrients. The +Fe site also had greater densities and biomasses of large deep-sea animals with lower levels of evenness in community structuring. The species composition was also very different, with the +Fe site showing similarities to eutrophic sites in other ocean basins. Moreover, major differences occurred in the taxa at the +Fe and HNLC sites revealing the crucial role that surface oceanic conditions play in changing and structuring deep-sea benthic communities.
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