Organic complexation of iron by strong ligands and siderophores in the eastern tropical North Pacific oxygen deficient zone

Laura E. Moore, Maija I. Heller, Katherine A. Barbeau, James W. Moffett, Randelle M. Bundy

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2 Scopus citations


Continental margins are an important external source of dissolved iron to the marine environment. However, the mechanisms responsible for the offshore transport of dissolved iron is impacted by the resulting iron speciation. We characterized the iron speciation in the Eastern Tropical North Pacific (ETNP) oxygen deficient zone (ODZ), including dissolved iron, organic iron-binding ligands, and reduced iron. Organic iron-binding ligands were measured using both competitive ligand exchange adsorptive cathodic stripping voltammetry (CLE-ACSV) and liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS) in order to explore the impact of organic ligands on dissolved iron (dFeT) and iron(II) biogeochemistry in the region. Organic ligands were present in high concentrations (1.06–5.30 nmol L−1) and exceeded dissolved iron concentrations (0.36–4.52 nmol L−1) at all locations. Iron-binding strengths (logKFeL,Fe′cond) ranged 11.22 to 12.75 and were elevated in the ODZ layer relative to the oxygenated water column. LC-ESI-MS revealed the presence of siderophores, or bacterially-produced organic ligands with high Fe-affinity, in all samples analyzed, suggesting these compounds may be produced by microbes in the ODZ despite high ambient dFeT concentrations. This study is the first to characterize siderophores in an ODZ environment to date, and the three siderophores found (amphibactin B, synechobactin c9, synechobactin c10) could contribute to the observed elevated logKFeL,Fe′cond of ligands in the ODZ. Comparative analysis of organic ligand logKFeL,Fe′cond values in other low oxygen environments suggests that strong ligands, including siderophores, could be present in other low oxygen regions. In a simple model of the shelf-to-offshore iron transport mechanism, strong organic iron-binding ligands had a large impact on the longevity and transport of iron in the ODZ. These results suggest that organic ligand composition can have an impact on iron distributions in the ETNP ODZ and regulate the offshore transport of iron to the open ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104021
JournalMarine Chemistry
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2021


  • chemical speciation
  • eastern tropical North Pacific
  • iron
  • ligands
  • oxygen deficient zone
  • siderophores
  • voltammetry


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