Articles | Volume 8, issue 5
Model description paper
12 May 2015
Model description paper |  | 12 May 2015

A dynamic marine iron cycle module coupled to the University of Victoria Earth System Model: the Kiel Marine Biogeochemical Model 2 for UVic 2.9

L. Nickelsen, D. P. Keller, and A. Oschlies

Abstract. Marine biological production as well as the associated biotic uptake of carbon in many ocean regions depends on the availability of nutrients in the euphotic zone. While large areas are limited by nitrogen and/or phosphorus, the micronutrient iron is considered the main limiting nutrient in the North Pacific, equatorial Pacific and Southern Ocean. Changes in iron availability via changes in atmospheric dust input are discussed to play an important role in glacial–interglacial cycles via climate feedbacks caused by changes in biological ocean carbon sequestration. Although many aspects of the iron cycle remain unknown, its incorporation into marine biogeochemical models is needed to test our current understanding and better constrain its role in the Earth system. In the University of Victoria Earth System Climate Model (UVic) iron limitation in the ocean was, until now, simulated pragmatically with an iron concentration masking scheme that did not allow a consistent interactive response to perturbations of ocean biogeochemistry or iron cycling sensitivity studies. Here, we replace the iron masking scheme with a dynamic iron cycle and compare the results to available observations and the previous marine biogeochemical model. Sensitivity studies are also conducted with the new model to test the sensitivity of the model to parameterized iron ligand concentrations, the importance of considering the variable solubility of iron in dust deposition, the importance of considering high-resolution bathymetry for the sediment release of iron, the effect of scaling the sedimentary iron release with temperature and the sensitivity of the iron cycle to a climate change scenario.

Short summary
In this paper we find that including the marine cycle of the phytoplankton nutrient iron in a global climate model improves the agreement between observed and simulated nutrient concentrations in the ocean and that a better description of the source of iron from the sediment to the ocean is more important than that of iron-containing dust deposition. Finally, we find that the response of the iron cycle to climate warming affects the phytoplankton growth and nutrient cycles.