Downward fluxes of elemental carbon, metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in settling particles from the deep Ionian Sea (NESTOR site), Eastern Mediterranean
Abstract. To assess sources and major processes controlling the vertical transport of both anthropogenic and natural chemical species in a deep basin of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea (SE Ionian Sea, Nestor site), we performed chemical characterization (elemental carbon, major and trace metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) of marine sinking particles. Sediment traps were deployed at five successive depths, 700, 1200, 2000, 3200 and 4300 m from the sea surface from May 2007 to October 2008. Fluxes of all measured chemical species, attributed to both natural and anthropogenic sources, exhibited minimum values from January to March 2008 and maximum from April to September 2008. Crustal matter flux from atmospheric inputs – either "freshly" deposited or stored in the surface layers – plays an important role in the temporal variability of particulate marine matter fluxes along with particulate organic carbon export, imposing ballast effects. Tracers (elemental carbon, retene) of the devastating forest fires that occurred in August 2007 in southern Greece were detected in sediment trap material from all depths with a delay of 15 days at 4300 m, indicating a rapid and well-coupled transport of sinking particulate material between the sea-surface and deep layers of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. This is in accordance with an evident covariance between certain compounds, suggesting common sources and/or transport mechanisms to depth. Lateral inputs of pollutants at the deepest trap (4300 m) are probably of importance, related to the periodic influence of deep Adriatic water at the study site.