Articles | Volume 10, issue 1
Research article
08 Jan 2013
Research article |  | 08 Jan 2013

Sediment-water column fluxes of carbon, oxygen and nutrients in Bedford Basin, Nova Scotia, inferred from 224Ra measurements

W. J. Burt, H. Thomas, K. Fennel, and E. Horne

Abstract. Exchanges between sediment pore waters and the overlying water column play a significant role in the chemical budgets of many important chemical constituents. Direct quantification of such benthic fluxes requires explicit knowledge of the sediment properties and biogeochemistry. Alternatively, changes in water-column properties near the sediment-water interface can be exploited to gain insight into the sediment biogeochemistry and benthic fluxes. Here, we apply a 1-D diffusive mixing model to near-bottom water-column profiles of 224Ra activity in order to yield vertical eddy diffusivities (KZ), based upon which we assess the diffusive exchange of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), nutrients and oxygen (O2), across the sediment-water interface in a coastal inlet, Bedford Basin, Nova Scotia, Canada. Numerical model results are consistent with the assumptions regarding a constant, single benthic source of 224Ra, the lack of mixing by advective processes, and a predominantly benthic source and sink of DIC and O2, respectively, with minimal water-column respiration in the deep waters of Bedford Basin. Near-bottom observations of DIC, O2 and nutrients provide flux ratios similar to Redfield values, suggesting that benthic respiration of primarily marine organic matter is the dominant driver. Furthermore, a relative deficit of nitrate in the observed flux ratios indicates that denitrification also plays a role in the oxidation of organic matter, although its occurrence was not strong enough to allow us to detect the corresponding AT fluxes out of the sediment. Finally, comparison with other carbon sources reveal the observed benthic DIC release as a significant contributor to the Bedford Basin carbon system.

Final-revised paper