Marine Bioinorganic Chemistry: The Role of Trace Metals in the Oceanic Cycles of Major Nutrients

Francois M. M. Morel, A. J. Milligan, M. A. Saito

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

46 Scopus citations


The bulk of living biomass is chiefly made up of only a dozen 'major' elements whose proportions vary within a relatively narrow range in most organisms. A number of trace elements, particularly first row transition metals are also 'essential' for the growth of organisms. We begin this chapter by discussing what we know of the concentrations of trace elements in marine microorganisms and of the relevant mechanisms and kinetics of trace-metal uptake. We then review the biochemical role of trace elements in the marine cycles of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and silicon. Using this information, we examine the evidence, emanating from both laboratory cultures and field measurements, relevant to the mechanisms and the extent of control by trace metals of marine biogeochemical cycles. Before concluding with a wistful glimpse of the future of marine bioinorganic chemistry we discuss briefly some paleoceanographic aspects of this new field: how the chemistry of the planet 'Earth' particularly the concentrations of trace elements in the oceans has evolved since its origin, chiefly as a result of biological processes and how the evolution of life has, in turn, been affected by the availability of essential trace elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oceans and Marine Geochemistry
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9780080983004
StatePublished - Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Environmental Science


  • Marine biogeochemical cycles
  • Marine bioinorganic chemistry
  • Nutrients
  • Trace metals


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