Unexpected Source and Transport of Iron from the Deep Peru Margin

Phoebe J. Lam, Maija I. Heller, Paul E. Lerner, James W. Moffett, Kristen N. Buck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Iron is the most important micronutrient in the ocean, but the nature and magnitude of its sources and sinks to the ocean are poorly constrained. Here we assess our understanding of the sources and sinks of iron in margin environments by synthesizing observations from the U.S. GEOTRACES GP16 Eastern Tropical Pacific Zonal Transect (EPZT) cruise near the Peru margin. GP16 observations showed elevated dissolved iron (dFe) concentrations along the margin, but a larger westward plume of dFe at slope depths (1000-3000 m) in oxygenated waters, rather than at shelf depths (100-300 m) in oxygen deficient waters. We examine the potential explanations for this unexpected observation. Multiple tracers from GP16 suggest that sediment resuspension was important at slope depths, which would lead to enhanced benthic flux of dFe above what was previously measured. The difference in the apparent persistence and penetration of shelf versus slope plumes of dFe into the interior of the ocean likely results from faster removal rates of the shelf dFe compared to slope dFe. The dFe sourced from the shelf was almost entirely in the dFe(II) form, whereas dFe sourced from the slope was almost entirely in the dFe(III) form. Although benthic dFe(II) diffuses into oxygen deficient overlying waters, there is still oxidation of dFe(II), which precipitates to particulate Fe(III). In contrast, the slope plume appears to persist in a stabilized dFe(III) form. We hypothesize that sediment porewaters with moderate organic carbon delivery to sediments and shallow oxygen penetration are especially good sources of persistent dFe to the water column.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)977-992
Number of pages16
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number7
StatePublished - 16 Jul 2020


  • Benthic flux
  • continental slope
  • dissolution
  • scavenging
  • sediment resuspension


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