The availability of iron (Fe) can seasonally limit phytoplankton growth in the High Latitude North Atlantic (HLNA), greatly reducing the efficiency of the biological carbon pump. However, the spatial extent of seasonal iron limitation is not yet known. We present autumn nutrient and dissolved Fe measurements, combined with microphytoplankton distribution, of waters overlying the Hebridean (Scottish) shelf break. A distinct biogeochemical divide was observed, with Fe deficient surface waters present beyond the shelf break, much further eastwards than previously recognised. Due to along and on-shelf circulation, the Hebridean shelf represents a much-localised source of Fe, which does not fertilise the wider HLNA. Shelf sediments are generally thought to supply large quantities of Fe to overlying waters. However, for this Fe to influence upper-ocean biogeochemical cycling, efficient off-shelf transport mechanisms are required. This work challenges the view that the oceanic surface waters in close proximity to continental margins are iron replete with respect to marine primary production demands.
- NE/ K001884/1