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Benthic dynamics and carbon fluxes on the NW European continental margin

Van Weering, T. C. E., De Stigter, H. C., Balzer, W., Epping, E. H. G., Graf, G., Hall, Ian Robert ORCID:, Helder, W., Khripounoff, A., Lohse, L., McCave, I. N., Thomsen, L. and Vangriesheim, A. 2001. Benthic dynamics and carbon fluxes on the NW European continental margin. Deep-Sea Research. Part II.Topical studies in oceanography 48 (14-15) , pp. 3191-3221. 10.1016/S0967-0645(01)00037-6

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Across the Goban Spur on the NW European continental margin, laterally directed, intermittent, off-slope transport of particulate matter takes place by intermediate and bottom nepheloid layers (BNLs). These are generated by semidiurnal tidal currents, which on the upper slope reach maximum near-bed speeds of up to 20 cm s−1, and which are directed predominantly off-slope (during 15–20% of the tidal cycle). BNLs are semi-permanently present, increasing in thickness above the seabed in downslope direction but decreasing in particle density. Near-bed currents measured on the upper slope are stronger in autumn than during summer, and both long- and short-term records suggest interannual variability. Aggregate formation in the benthic boundary layer (BBL) is considered the dominant process controlling particle accumulation. The organic fraction has low settling velocities and high residence times within the BBL. The flux of lithogenic material into the sediment on Goban Spur decreases from >44 g m−2 a−1 on the shelf edge to 6.9 and 4.9 g m−2 a−1 on the upper slope, then increases to a maximum of 19.1 g m−2 a−1 on the continental rise. CaCO3 flux increases with depth from about 13 g m−2 a−1 on the shelf edge to a maximum of 30.7 g m−2 a−1 on the continental rise, with minima on the upper slope. Flux values at comparable depths on Meriadzek Terrace are considerably higher. Mineralization of organic carbon on Goban Spur, representing more than 97.7% of the deposition flux, decreases with depth from 19.13 g C m−2 a−1 on the shelf edge, to 4.39 g C m−2 a−1 on the continental rise, and 1.10 g C m−2 a−1 on Porcupine Abyssal Plain. Organic carbon burial fluxes range between 0.05 and >0.16 gC m−2 a−1 on Goban Spur, and up to 0.41 gC m−2 a−1 on Meriadzek Terrace. Over 90% of the organic carbon mineralization at the sediment–water interface and directly below the seabed is driven by oxygen, as shown by pore water modelling and in situ oxygen measurements. Denitrification is of only minor (<5%) importance for the organic carbon mineralization; anoxic mineralization plays a (minor) role on shallow stations. Inventories and fluxes of 210Pbxs in surface sediments on Goban Spur indicate that the slope below 1500 m receives only about half of the amount of relatively young sedimentary material compared to the upper slope and shelf. Yet total sediment fluxes increase from the upper slope downward, indicating a significant contribution of reworked sediment in lower-slope sediments. 210Pb-derived mixing coefficients correlate with macro- and meiofaunal density and biomass, decreasing with increasing depth downslope. Fluxes of lithogenic material, CaCO3 and 210Pbxs on the lower slope agree reasonably well with fluxes recorded in deep-water sediment traps, suggesting that the bulk of the sediment may be supplied via vertical settling through midwater depth. Benthic fluxes of organic carbon, however, are three times higher than deep-water trap fluxes, emphasizing the importance of lateral transport of organic matter over the slope. At present, the NW European continental margin at Goban Spur is not a major carbon depocenter.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GC Oceanography
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0967-0645
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 09:04

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