Wildfire magnitude and frequency have greatly escalated on a global scale. Wildfire products rich in biogenic elements can enter the ocean through atmospheric and river inputs, but their contribution to marine phytoplankton production is poorly understood. Here, using geochemical paleo-reconstructions, a century-long relationship between wildfire magnitude and marine phytoplankton production is established in a fire-prone region of Kimberley coast, Australia. A positive correlation is identified between wildfire and phytoplankton production on a decadal scale. The importance of wildfire on marine phytoplankton production is statistically higher than that of tropical cyclones and rainfall, when strong El Niño Southern Oscillation coincides with the positive phase of Indian Ocean Dipole. Interdecadal chlorophyll-a variation along the Kimberley coast validates the spatial connection of this phenomenon. Findings from this study suggest that the role of additional nutrients from wildfires has to be considered when projecting impacts of global warming on marine phytoplankton production.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1348
Pages (from-to)1348
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022


  • Chlorophyll A
  • El Nino-Southern Oscillation
  • Indian Ocean
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Phytoplankton
  • Wildfires


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