Antimony and Arsenic Biogeochemistry in the Western Atlantic Ocean

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Marine Science


The subtropical to equatorial Atlantic Ocean provides a unique regime in which one can examine the biogeochemical cycles of antimony and arsenic. In particular, this region is strongly affected by inputs from the Amazon River and dust from North Africa at the surface, and horizontal transport at depth from high-latitude northern (e.g., North Atlantic Deep Water) and southern waters (e.g., Antarctic Bottom and Intermediate Waters). As a part of the 1996 Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Contaminant Baseline Survey, data for dissolved As(III + V), As(III), mono- and dimethyl arsenic, Sb(III + V), Sb(III), and monomethyl antimony were obtained at six vertical profile stations and 44 sites along the 11,000 km transect from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Bridgetown, Barbados. The arsenic results were similar to those in other oceans, with moderate surface depletion, deep-water enrichment, a predominance of arsenate (> 85% As(V)), and methylated arsenic species and As(III) in surface waters that are likely a result of phytoplankton conversions to mitigate arsenate "stress" (toxicity). Perhaps the most significant discovery in the arsenic results was the extremely low concentrations in the Amazon Plume (as low as 9.8 nmol/l) that appear to extend for considerable distances offshore in the equatorial region. The very low concentration of inorganic arsenic in the Amazon River (2.8 nmol/l; about half those in most rivers) is probably the result of intense iron oxyhydroxide scavenging. Dissolved antimony was also primarily in the pentavalent state (> 95% antimonate), but Sb(III) and monomethyl antimony were only detected in surface waters and displayed no correlations with biotic tracers such as nutrients and chlorophyll a. Unlike As(III + V)'s nutrient-type vertical profiles, Sb(III + V) displayed surface maxima and decreased into the deep waters, exhibiting the behavior of a scavenged element with a strong atmospheric input. While surface water Sb had a slight correlation with dissolved Al, it is likely that atmospheric Sb is delivered with combustion byproducts and not from mineral aerosols. In the Amazon Plume, antimony concentrations dropped substantially, and an Amazon River sample had a concentration (0.25 nmol/l) that was Less than one-fourth those found in other major rivers. Using these river data, and estimates of atmospheric fluxes based on shipboard measurements and collections from Barbados, the atmospheric deposition of antimony to the equatorial Atlantic (2 degreesS-8 degreesN) is twice the Amazon flux, while the atmospheric deposition of arsenic is only 10% of the river's flux. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

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Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography





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