The effect of acidifcation on the bioavailability and electrochemical lability of zinc in seawater

Ja Myung Kim, Oliver Baars, Francois M. M. Morel

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19 Scopus citations


A poorly studied but potentially important consequence of the CO2-induced acidification of the surface ocean is a possible change in the bioavailability of trace metals, which play a critical role in the productivity and population dynamics of marine ecosystems. We report laboratory and field experiments designed to compare quantitatively the effects of acidification on the bioavailability of Zn, a metal essential to the growth of phytoplankton and on the extent of its complexation by model and natural ligands. We observed a good correspondence between the effects of pH on the rate of Zn uptake by a model diatom and the chemical lability of Zn measured by anodic stripping voltammetry (ASV). In model laboratory systems, the chemical lability and the bioavailability of Zn could either increase or decrease at low pH depending on the mix of complexing ligands. In a sample of coastal surface water, we observed similar increases in the ASV-labile and bioavailable Zn concentrations upon acidification, a result contrary to previous observations. These results, which can likely be generalized to other bioactive trace metals, mutatis mutandis, demonstrate the intricacy of the effects of ocean acidification on the chemistry and the ecology of surface seawater.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150296
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2081
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Mathematics


  • Anodic stripping voltammetry
  • Bioavailability
  • Ocean acidifcation
  • Trace metals
  • Zinc


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