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Toxic diatoms and domoic acid in natural and iron enriched waters of the oceanic Pacific

Mary W. Silver, Sibel Bargu, Susan L. Coale, Claudia R. Benitez-Nelson, Ana C. Garcia, Kathryn J. Roberts, Emily Sekula-Wood, Kenneth W. Bruland, Kenneth H. Coale and M. M. Morel
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 107, No. 48 (November 30, 2010), pp. 20762-20767
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25756777
Page Count: 6
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Toxic diatoms and domoic acid in natural and iron enriched waters of the oceanic Pacific
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Abstract

Near-surface waters ranging from the Pacific subarctic (58°N) to the Southern Ocean (66°S) contain the neurotoxin domoic acid (DA), associated with the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia. Of the 35 stations sampled, including ones from historic iron fertilization experiments (SOFeX, IronEx II), we found Pseudo-nitzschia at 34 stations and DA measurable at 14 of the 26 stations analyzed for DA. Toxin ranged from 0.3 fg·cell⁻¹ to 2 pg·cell⁻¹, comparable with levels found in similar-sized cells from coastal waters. In the western subarctic, descent of intact Pseudo-nitzschia likely delivered significant amounts of toxin (up to 4 μg of DA·m⁻²·d⁻¹) to underlying mesopelagic waters (150–500 m). By reexamining phytoplankton samples from SOFeX and IronEx II, we found substantial amounts of DA associated with Pseudo-nitzschia. Indeed, at SOFeX in the Antarctic Pacific, DA reached 220 ng·L⁻¹, levels at which animal mortalities have occurred on continental shelves. Iron ocean fertilization also occurs naturally and may have promoted blooms of these ubiquitous algae over previous glacial cycles during deposition of iron-rich aerosols. Thus, the neurotoxin DA occurs both in coastal and oceanic waters, and its concentration, associated with changes in Pseudo-nitzschia abundance, likely varies naturally with climate cycles, as well as with artificial iron fertilization. Given that iron fertilization in iron-depleted regions of the sea has been proposed to enhance phytoplankton growth and, thereby, both reduce atmospheric CO₂ and moderate ocean acidification in surface waters, consideration of the potentially serious ecosystem impacts associated with DA is prudent.

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