A global marine ecosystem mixed-layer model is used to study iron cycling and nutrient-limitation patterns in surface waters of the world ocean. The ecosystem model has a small phytoplankton size class whose growth can be limited by N, P, Fe, and/or light, a diatom class which can also be Si-limited, and a diazotroph phytoplankton class whose growth rates can be limited by P, Fe, and/or light levels. The model also includes a parameterization of calcification by phytoplankton and is described in detail by Moore et al. (Deep-Sea Res. II, 2002). The model reproduces the observed high nitrate, low chlorophyll (HNLC) conditions in the Southern Ocean, subarctic Northeast Pacific, and equatorial Pacific, and realistic global patterns of primary production, biogenic silica production, nitrogen fixation, particulate organic carbon export, calcium carbonate export, and surface chlorophyll concentrations. Phytoplankton cellular Fe/C ratios and surface layer dissolved iron concentrations are also in general agreement with the limited field data. Primary production, community structure, and the sinking carbon flux are quite sensitive to large variations in the atmospheric iron source, particularly in the HNLC regions, supporting the Iron Hypothesis of Martin (Paleoceanography 5 (1990) 1-13). Nitrogen fixation is also strongly influenced by atmospheric iron deposition. Nitrogen limits phyuoplankton growth rates over less than half of the world ocean during summer months. Export of biogenic carbon is dominated by the sinking particulate flux, but detrainment and turbulent mixing account for 30% of global carbon export. Our results, in conjunction with other recent studies, suggest the familiar paradigm that nitrate inputs to the surface layer can be equated with particulate carbon export needs to be expanded to include multiple limiting nutrients and modes of export. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.