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

202 Scopus citations


The bulk of living biomass is chiefly made up of only a dozen “major” elements—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, chlorine, calcium, magnesium, sulfur (and silicon in diatoms)—whose proportions vary within a relatively narrow range in most organisms. A number of trace elements, particularly first row transition metals—manganese, iron, nickel, cobalt, copper, and zinc—are also “essential” for the growth of organisms. At the molecular level, the chemical mechanisms by which such elements function as active centers or structural factors in enzymes and by which they are accumulated and stored by organisms is the central topic of bioinorganic chemistry. At the scale of ocean basins, the interplay of physical, chemical, and biological processes that govern the cycling of biologically essential elements in seawater is the subject of marine biogeochemistry. For those interested in the growth of marine organisms, particularly in the one-half of the Earth’s primary production contributed by marine phytoplankton, bioinorganic chemistry and marine biogeochemistry are critically linked by the extraordinary paucity of essential trace elements in surface seawater, which results from their biological utilization and incorporation in sinking organic matter. How marine organisms acquire elements that are present at nano- or picomolar concentrations in surface seawater; how they perform critical enzymatic functions when necessary metal cofactors are almost unavailable are the central topics of “marine bioinorganic chemistry.” The central aim of this field is to elucidate at the molecular level the metal-dependent biological processes involved in the major biogeochemical cycles. By examining the solutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oceans and Marine Geochemistry
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages31
ISBN (Electronic)9780080548074
ISBN (Print)9780080437514
StatePublished - Dec 4 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Marine Bioinorganic Chemistry: The Role of Trace Metals in the Oceanic Cycles of Major Nutrients'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this