Atmospheric deposition brings both nutrients and toxic components to the surface ocean, resulting in important impacts on phytoplankton. Field and lab studies have been done on the iron (Fe) fertilization on marine phytoplankton. However, studies on other trace metals are limited. Both bioassay experiments and field observations have suggested that aerosols with high copper (Cu) concentrations can negatively affect the primary productivity and change phytoplankton community structure. Note that with increasing human activities and global environmental changes (e.g., ocean acidification, warming, deoxygenation, etc.), the input of aerosol Cu could exceed toxicity thresholds at certain times or in some sensitive oceanic regions. Here, we provide a comprehensive review on aerosol Cu and marine phytoplankton studies by summarizing (1) physiological effects and toxicity thresholds of Cu to various phytoplankton taxa, (2) interactions between Cu and other metals and major nutrients, and (3) global distribution of surface seawater Cu and atmospheric Cu. We suggest that studies on aerosols, seawater chemistry, and phytoplankton should be integrated for understanding the impacts of aerosol Cu on marine phytoplankton, and thereafter the air–sea interaction via biogeochemical processes.
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