Planktonic uptake of some essential metals results in extraordinarily low concentrations in surface seawater. To sequester or take up these micronutrients, various microorganisms apparently release strong complexing agents and catalyze redox reactions that modify the bioavailability of trace metals and promote their rapid cycling in the upper water column. In turn, the low availability of some metals controls the rate of photosynthesis in parts of the oceans and the transformation and uptake of major nutrients such as nitrogen. The extremely low concentrations of several essential metals are both the cause and the result of ultraefficient uptake systems in the plankton and of widespread replacement of metals by one another for various biochemical functions.
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