The role of airborne volcanic ash for the surface ocean biogeochemical iron-cycle: A review

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Iron is a key micronutrient for phytoplankton growth in the surface ocean. Yet the significance of vol- canism for the marine biogeochemical iron-cycle is poorly constrained. Recent studies, however, suggest that offshore deposition of airborne ash from volcanic eruptions is away to inject significant amounts of bio-available iron into the sur- face ocean. Volcanic ash may be transported up to several tens of kilometers high into the atmosphere during large- scale eruptions and fine ash may stay aloft for days to weeks, thereby reaching even the remotest and most iron- starved oceanic regions. Scientific ocean drilling demon- strates that volcanic ash layers and dispersed ash particles are frequently found in marine sediments and that therefore volcanic ash deposition and iron-injection into the oceans took place throughout much of the Earth’s history. Natu- ral evidence and the data now available from geochemical and biological experiments and satellite techniques suggest that volcanic ash is a so far underestimated source for iron in the surface ocean, possibly of similar importance as aeo- lian dust. Here we summarise the development of and the knowledge in this fairly young research field. The paper covers a wide range of chemical and biological issues and we make recommendations for future directions in these ar- eas. The review paper may thus be helpful to improve our understanding of the role of volcanic ash for the marine bio- geochemical iron-cycle, marine primary productivity and the ocean-atmosphere exchange of CO2 and other gases relevant for climate in the Earth’s history




Duggen, S., Olgun, N., Croot, P., Hoffmann, L., Dietze, H., Delmelle, P., & Teschner, C. (2010). The role of airborne volcanic ash for the surface ocean biogeochemical iron-cycle: A review. Biogeosciences, 7(3), 827–844.

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