Influence of trace metal release from volcanic ash on growth of Thalassiosira pseudonana and Emiliania huxleyi

L. J. Hoffmann*, E. Breitbarth, M. V. Ardelan, S. Duggen, N. Olgun, M. Hassellöv, S. Å Wängberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies demonstrate that volcanic ash has the potential to increase phytoplankton biomass in the open ocean. However, besides fertilizing trace metals such as Fe, volcanic ash contains a variety of potentially toxic metals such as Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn. Especially in coastal regions closer to the volcanic eruption, where ash depositions can be very high, toxic effects are possible. Here we present the first results from laboratory experiments, showing that trace metal release from different volcanic ashes can have both fertilizing and toxic effects on marine phytoplankton in natural coastal seawater. The diatom . Thalassiosira pseudonana generally showed higher growth rates in seawater that was in short contact with volcanic ash compared to the controls without ash addition. In contrast to that, the addition of volcanic ash had either no effect or significantly decreased the growth rate of the coccolithophoride . Emiliania huxleyi. It was not possible to attribute the effects to single trace metals, however, our results suggest that Mn plays an important role in regulating the antagonistic and synergistic effects of the different trace metals. This study shows that volcanic ash can lead to changes in the phytoplankton species composition in the high fall-out area of the surface ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-33
Number of pages6
JournalMarine Chemistry
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


This research was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) . L. J. H. and E. B. acknowledge current funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG grants HO 4217 and BR 3794 ). S. D. and N. O. were supported by the multidisciplinary research group NOVUM at the IFM-GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany .

FundersFunder number
Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst
Deutsche ForschungsgemeinschaftHO 4217, BR 3794


    • Emiliania huxleyi
    • Fertilization
    • Pumice
    • Thalassiosira pseudonana
    • Toxicity
    • Volcanic ash


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