MEPS 175:261-276 (1998)  -  doi:10.3354/meps175261

Seasonal carbon and nutrient mineralization in a high-Arctic coastal marine sediment, Young Sound, Northeast Greenland

Søren Rysgaard1,*, Bo Thamdrup2, Nils Risgaard-Petersen3, Henrik Fossing1, Peter Berg4, Peter Bondo Christensen1, Tage Dalsgaard1

1Dept. Lake and Estuarine Ecology, National Environmental Research Institute, Vejlsøvej 25, DK-8600 Silkeborg, Denmark
2Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Celsiusstr. 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
3Institute for Biological Sciences, Department of Microbial Ecology, University of Aarhus, Ny Munkegade, DK-8000 Århus C, Denmark
4Dept. Environmental Sciences, Clark Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22903, USA

ABSTRACT: A comprehensive investigation of carbon and nutrient cycling in Arctic marine sediments is presented. The high-Arctic fjord Young Sound in Northeast Greenland was chosen as study site. The fjord was covered by sea ice for approximately 10 mo during 1996. Despite highly fluctuating seasonal air temperatures, the bottom water temperature remained almost constant at -1.2 to -1.8°C throughout the year. When sea ice broke in mid-July, benthic mineralization was immediately stimulated by a significant peak in sedimentation of organic material. Due to rapid mineralization of the easily degradable fraction of the settling organic material, respiration rates returned to their basic lower level within 1 mo and remained low for the rest of the season. Benthic mineralization rates in the Young Sound sediment are comparable with rates from much warmer locations, suggesting that benthic mineralization in this high-Arctic coastal sediment was regulated by the availability of organic matter and not by temperature. Rate measurements covered oxygen respiration, denitrification, manganese, iron, and sulfate reduction as well as DIC and nutrient flux from the sediment. In response to enhanced mineralization following sea ice break-up, sediment water fluxes of O2, DIC, NO3- + NO2-, NH4+, urea, PO43-, and Si increased and rapidly recycled nutrients to the water column, indicating an efficient benthic-pelagic coupling in Young Sound. Sediment porewater concentrations of O2 were affected by the input of organic matter, leading to higher O2 consumption rates near the sediment surface during summer. In contrast, no seasonal alterations in concentration profiles of DIC, NH4+, NO3- + NO2-, Mn2+, Fe2+ and SO42- were observed. Furthermore, depth distributions of e--acceptors (O2, NO3-, Fe(III) and SO42-) and reduction rate measurements supported the classical orderly progression from O2 respiration to NO3- reduction followed by bacterial iron reduction and finally sulfate reduction. On an annual scale, O2 respiration accounted for 38% of total oxidation of organic carbon, denitrification, 4%; iron reduction, 25%; and sulfate reduction, 33%. Rates of carbon oxidation by manganese reduction were insignificant (<1%) and the fraction of refractory carbon buried was approximately equal to the amount of carbon being mineralized in Young Sound.

KEY WORDS: Sediments · Fluxes · Denitrification · Manganese · Iron · Sulfate reduction · Porewater · Nutrients · Burial

Full text in pdf format