The essential bioactive role of nickel in the oceans: Evidence from nickel isotopes - Université de Bretagne Occidentale Access content directly
Journal Articles Earth and Planetary Science Letters Year : 2022

The essential bioactive role of nickel in the oceans: Evidence from nickel isotopes


The role of nickel (Ni) in ocean biogeochemical cycles is both under-studied and controversial. Strong correlations between Ni and organic carbon in modern and ancient marine sediments suggest a prominent biogeochemical role over a substantial portion of Earth history. Addition of Ni to culturing and seawater incubation experiments produces strong responses in terms of cell growth, particularly of nitrogen-fixing organisms. But the implied limiting role for phytoplankton growth is inconsistent with observations in the real ocean, specifically that photic zone Ni concentrations never descend to the very low values that characterise other bioactive, and often bio-limiting, metals like iron. These two observations can be reconciled if a large portion of the total dissolved Ni present in open-ocean surface waters is not bio-available on short timescales. Here we present new Ni concentration and stable isotope data from the GEOVIDE transect in the North Atlantic. We interpret these new data in the light of the growing database for Ni stable isotopes in the modern ocean, with implications for the biogeochemical importance of Ni. In the new North Atlantic dataset, the lowest Ni concentrations (1.8-2.6 nmol/L) and highest δ 60 Ni (up to +1.67) are associated with low nitrate, south of the subarctic front (SAF). By contrast, stations at latitudes north of the SAF, with higher surface nitrate, show very subdued variation in Ni concentrations throughout the entire depth of the water column (3.6±0.3 nmol/L, mean and 2SD), and no variation in δ 60 Ni beyond the narrow global deep-ocean range (+1.33±0.13). These North Atlantic Ni isotope data also show relationships with nitrogen isotope effects, observed in the same samples, that are suggestive of a link between Ni utilisation, isotope fractionation and nitrogen fixation. The global dataset, including the new data presented here, reveals a biogeochemical divide with Ni isotope fractionation only occurring in low latitude surface waters. A simple observationally constrained three-dimensional model of Ni cycling suggests that the creation of this isotopically heavy, Ni-poor, endmember, together with the physical circulation and remineralisation at depth, can explain the global Ni-δ 60 Ni systematics. Taken together, these findings hint at Ni-N co-limitation in the modern ocean. We advocate for more extensive and detailed culturing/incubation studies of this neglected metal in order to elucidate its potentially crucial biogeochemical role.
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Dates and versions

hal-04214506 , version 1 (22-09-2023)



Nolwenn Lemaitre, Jianghui Du, Gregory F de Souza, Corey Archer, Derek Vance. The essential bioactive role of nickel in the oceans: Evidence from nickel isotopes. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2022, 584, ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2022.117513⟩. ⟨hal-04214506⟩
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