Using trace metal-defined culture conditions, we measured the cellular barium concentration in cultures of the diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii. In cultures with low Fe concentration, at a typical surface seawater Ba concentration of 35 to 40 nmol/L, the cellular Ba was 0.5 μmol/mol P (∼0.04 μg/g dw), much below all previously published values for phytoplankton. When the Fe concentration in the growth medium was increased, the measured "cellular" Ba increased proportionally to the particulate Fe. Under conditions of ferric hydroxide precipitation, similar particulate Ba concentrations were measured in the absence and the presence of cells for a given concentration of particulate Fe. Thus, the bulk of the particulate Ba in such experiments was not truly intracellular but adsorbed on precipitated Fe hydroxides associated with the cell surface. A similar mechanism likely explains the high cellular Ba concentrations reported by previous investigators who utilized relatively high ratios of Fe to EDTA concentrations in the growth medium, resulting in Fe precipitation. On the basis of our results, it seems highly unlikely that intracellular uptake by living phytoplankton explains the vertical flux of Ba in oceanic waters. But the adsorption of Ba on Fe hydroxides that is seen in laboratory experiments must also occur in the oceans and contribute to Ba transport in the upper part of the water column. To be significant, however, such a mechanism would require that the particles that transport Ba out of the surface have a markedly lower Ba/Fe ratio than is measured in the average suspended material.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Geochemistry and Petrology