The fertilization potential of newly erupted and well-preserved ash from the 2000 Hekla eruption in Iceland was measured for the first time by flow-through experiments. As previously shown, (1) the North Atlantic Ocean, including the subarctic seas surrounding Iceland, is the largest net sink of the world's oceans for atmospheric CO2, owing to biological drawdown during summer; (2) almost complete consumption of phosphate in chlorophyll-rich areas of the North Atlantic Ocean might limit primary production; and (3) in the southern Pacific Ocean and parts of the equatorial Pacific Ocean iron might limit primary production. We found through laboratory experiments that volcanic ash exposed to seawater initially releases large amounts of adsorbed phosphate, 1.7 μmol·g−1·h−1; iron, 37.0 μmol·g−1·h−1; silica, 49.5 μmol·g−1h−1; and manganese, 1.7 μmol·g−1·h−1. Dissolution of acid aerosols adsorbed to the surface of the ash caused the high initial release of major and trace elements. Because of the instantaneous dissolution of adsorbed components when newly erupted volcanic ash comes in contact with the ocean surface water, macronutrients and “bioactive” trace metals are released fast enough to become available to support primary production.

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