Bioavailability of natural colloid-bound iron to marine plankton : Influences of colloidal size and aging

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1956-1967
Journal / PublicationLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number8
Online published27 Nov 2001
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001
Externally publishedYes


Iron (Fe) is mostly complexed with the organic ligands or colloids that are very abundant in natural seawater. In this study, natural colloids were isolated by ultrafiltration and radiolabeled with 59Fe. The biological uptake of radiolabeled colloid-bound Fe of different sizes (1-10 kDa and 10 kDa-0.2 μm) and ages (1 and 15 d) by diatoms (Thalassiosira pseudonana) and copepods (Acartia spinicauda) was then determined. The uptake of radiolabeled colloid-bound Fe was compared with the uptake of low molecular weight (LMW) complexed Fe (<1 kDa) or that of EDTA-Fe (at a ratio of 1:2 for Fe:EDTA). Our study demonstrates that the colloid-bound Fe of different sizes and ages was bioavailable to the diatoms. The uptake of colloidal bound Fe was, however, 6-31 times lower than the uptake of LMW Fe, suggesting that colloidal binding reduced Fe bioavailability to diatoms. Fe bound with small colloids (1-10 kDa) was taken up at a higher rate than Fe bound with large colloids (10 kDa-0.2 μm) at typical colloidal organic carbon concentrations. The uptake of colloid-bound Fe was also much higher when the Fe had been bound with the colloids for 1 d rather than for 15 d. Differences in the colloidal organic carbon concentration did not appreciably affect the uptake of colloid-bound Fe by the diatoms. Similarly, copepods accumulated colloid-bound Fe at a much higher rate when the Fe was associated with small colloids rather than with large colloids. Direct ingestion of colloidal particles by the copepods appeared to be negligible. In both diatoms and copepods, Fe uptake may involve its dissociation from the colloids before being accumulated by the organisms. The study therefore demonstrates that colloid-bound Fe is less available for marine phytoplankton and that colloidal size and thus the colloidal speciation may be critical in controlling colloid-bound Fe uptake by aquatic organisms.