Plankton Compositions and Trace Element Fluxes from the Surface Ocean

  • Robert W. Collier
  • John M. Edmond
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 9)


Plankton samples have been carefully collected from a variety of marine environments under the rigorous conditions necessary to prevent contamination for major and trace-chemical analysis. Immediately after collection, the samples were subjected to a series of physical and chemical leaching — decomposition experiments designed to identify the major and trace element composition of particulate carrier phases. Elements examined through some or all of these experiments include: C, N, P, Ca, Si, Fe, Mn, Ni, Cu, Cd, Al, Ba and Zn. Emphasis was placed on the identification of trace element/major element ratios in the biogenic materials.

The majority of the trace elements in the samples were directly associated with the non-skeletal organic phases of the plankton. This included a very labile, rapidly-recycled fraction, as well as more refractory, metal-specific binding sites. Calcium carbonate and opal were not significant carriers for any of the trace elements studied. A refractory phase containing Al and Fe in terrigenous ratio was present in all samples — even from the more remote marine locations. The aluminosilicates contributed insignificant concentrations to the other trace elements studied.

A variety of processes affecting the geochemical cycles of specific trace elements were identified. As much as 50% of the particulate Cd, Ni, Mn and P are rapidly released from the plank-ton and recycled within the surface ocean. During this process, the metal/P ratio in the residual particles must decrease by 10–30% for Cd and increase by a factor of 2–4 for Ni and Cu in order to balance their deep ocean enrichments. Although Mn is taken up and regenerated by plankton, the magnitude of this process is small with respect to other non-biogenic Mn fluxes and has little influence on its dissolved distribution. The Ba content of all known surface carriers is insufficient to account for the deep enrichment of dissolved Ba. A secondary concentration process results in the formation of significant particulate Ba within the upper thermocline.


Carrier Phase Plankton Sample Carrier Model Plankton Composition Marine Geochemistry 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Collier
    • 1
  • John M. Edmond
    • 2
  1. 1.School of OceanographyOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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