Po-210 and Pb-210 concentration factors for zooplankton and faecal pellets in the oligotrophic South-West Pacific

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International Atomic Energy Agency
In a previous study on zooplankton sampled from very low productivity waters of French Polynesia [1], their Po-210 concentrations were found to be unexpectedly elevated, compared to values measured in marine zooplankton from various other geographical regions of the world. For the French Polynesian samples their Po-210 concentrations also increased appreciably as their biomass declined. A simple conceptual and mathematical model, that incorporated the established role of zooplankton faecal pellets in the removal of Po-210 and particle-reactive radionuclides and stable metals from the water column, could capture the shape of this empirical relationship between Po-210 concentration and their biomass and also explained the biomass-related mechanism that increases Po-210 concentrations in zooplankton [2]. Similarly, a field investigation in the Timor Sea showed that a range of particle-reactive elements showed elevated water concentrations as particle removal rates, as inferred from Th-234: U-238 disequilibria, reduced in the euphotic zone [3]. However, in these previous studies simultaneous in situ measurements of a range of parameters valuable in assessment of the role of zooplankton in the biogeochemical cycling of particle-reactive elements like Po-210 and Pb-210 were not made. Here we report preliminary results of a field study, that was undertaken in the oligotrophic waters of the South-West Pacific between New Caledonia and Fiji, where we simultaneously measured a) zooplankton biomass and their faecal pellet production rates, b) Po-210 and its progenitor Pb-210 in water, zooplankton and their faecal pellets and c) particle flux rates using U-238:Th-234 disequilibria, to further assess the role of zooplankton in Po-210 and Pb-210 biogeochemistry in the euphotic zone of oligotrophic systems [4]. Zooplankton sampled from the oceanic region of the South-West Pacific between Fiji and New Caledonia had biomasses ranging from 0.1 to 7.1 mgDW/m3, with a median value of 3.6 and mean of 2.65 mgDW/m3. Their faecal pellet production rates were measured on board and varied between 1.82.10-4-3.78.10-3 g dry faecal pellet. g dry zooplankton-1. hour-1, median ). Their measured Po-210 and Pb-210 concentrations were 830-2655 Bq.KgDW-1 and 44-617Bq. KgDW-1, respectively. Po-210 and Pb-210 concentrations in zooplankton varied between 565-1736 Bq.Kg dry weight-1 and 47-551 Bq.Kg dry weight-1, respectively. Po-210 concentration factors that only varied between 1.3 –3.3. 105 were elevated compared to the IAEA recommended value of 3.104 based on previous values [5]. Similarly, Pb-210 concentration factors ranging from 0.9-9.1. 104, were considerably elevated compared to the IAEA recommended value of 1.103 [5], indicating the presence of a further concentrating mechanism. Our results for Po-210 and Pb-210 show a consistency with published values [5,6] in that the concentration factor for Po-210 is elevated relative to Pb-210, but contrast with previous reported values in both being elevated by about an order of magnitude. Their comparably elevated concentrations in faecal pellets suggest that enhanced concentrations in zooplankton are a reflection of the heightened concentrations in their dietary phytoplankton.
Pacific Ocean, Plankton, Aquatic ecosystems, Mathematical models, Timor Sea, New Caledonia, Fiji
Jeffree, R. A., Szymczak, R., Peck, G. A. (2004). Po-210 and Pb-210 concentration factors for zooplankton and faecal pellets in the oligotrophic South-West Pacific. Paper presented to International Conference on Isotopes in Environmental Studies – Aquatic Forum 2004 Monte-Carlo, Monaco 25–29 October 2004. In Book of extended synopses. Retrieved from https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/36/003/36003223.pdf?r=1#page=5&zoom=auto,-15,800