Cadmium and phosphorus cycling in the water column of the South China Sea: The roles of biotic and abiotic particles

Tung Yuan Ho, Chen Feng You, Wen Chen Chou, Su Cheng Pai, Liang Saw Wen, David D. Sheu

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The concentrations of cadmium, phosphorus, and aluminum in size-fractionated phytoplankton, zooplankton, and sinking particles are determined using ICPMS to evaluate the roles of biotic and abiotic particles on the cycling and ratios of Cd and P in the water column. Plankton were collected with a filtration apparatus equipped with 10-, 60-, and 150-μm aperture plankton nets on two occasions (2002 and 2006), and sinking particles were sampled by moored sediment traps deployed at depths of 120, 600, and 3500 m from 2004 to 2005. In contrast to what our previous study revealed, i.e., that most of the other bioactive trace metals in plankton were strongly correlated with abiotic Al and adsorbed on phytoplankton [Ho, T.Y., Wen, L.S., You, C.F., Lee, D.C., 2007. The trace metal composition of size-fractionated plankton in the South China Sea: biotic versus abiotic sources. Limnol Oceanogr 52, 1776-88.], Cd/P ratios, ranging from 0.12 to 0.34 mmol/mol P, did not vary with Al and exhibited fairly consistent values among different sizes of plankton, showing that Cd was mostly incorporated on an intracellular basis. In terms of the sinking particles, fluxes in Cd and P as well as in Cd/P ratios were strongly influenced by both biotic and abiotic particles. Overall, the Cd/P ratios in the sinking particles ranged from 0.03 to 1.2 mmol/mol, with the highest value observed in traps at 120 m during the productive season. The lowest value was observed in deep water during high flux periods for lithogenic particles. At surface depth, flux and Cd/P ratios were elevated during the most productive season in the region. The elevated ratios in the traps at 120 m were most likely related to preferential uptake of Cd for the dominant species (coccolithophores) during the productive period. Relatively, Cd/P ratios sharply decreased with increasing Al flux in deep water and ratios were much lower than the expected Cd/P ratios obtained from the relative portion of lithogenic and biogenic particles, indicating that the adsorption of soluble P into lithogenic particles was significant in the deep water during high lithogenic particle flux periods. Using averaged annual fluxes and standing stock in the water column, the residence time of biogenic Cd and P are 0.10 and 0.20, 250 and 100, and 9100 and 5000 years respectively in the top 120 m, 600 m, and water column as a whole, also showing preferential removal for Cd in the euphotic zone but relatively higher removal rates for P in the deep water. Our study suggests that the shift in microalgal community structure along with input of lithogenic minerals are both potentially important factors in influencing Cd/P ratios in oceanic water on a geological time scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-133
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Chemistry
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun 20

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oceanography
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology

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