Composition and sources of sedimentary organic matter in the deep eastern Mediterranean Sea
- 1GRC Geociències Marines, Departament d'Estratigrafia, Paleontologia i Geociències Marines, Universitat de Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
- 2Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Institute of Oceanography, Anavyssos, Attiki, Greece
- 3Laboratoire d'Océanographie et du Climat: Expérimentation et Approches Numériques (LOCEAN), CNRS – Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France
- 4Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Institute of Oceanography, Heraklion, Crete, Greece
Abstract. Surface sediments collected from deep slopes and basins (1018–4087 m depth) of the oligotrophic eastern Mediterranean Sea have been analysed for bulk elemental and isotopic composition of organic carbon, total nitrogen and selected lipid biomarkers, jointly with grain size distribution and other geochemical proxies. The distribution and sources of sedimentary organic matter (OM) have been subsequently assessed and general environmental variables, such as water column depth and physical circulation patterns, have been examined as causative factors of deep-sea sediment characteristics. Lithogenic and biogenic carbonates are the dominant sedimentary fractions, accounting for up to 85.4 and 66.5 % of the total weight respectively. The low OC and TN contents in the surface sediments of the study area, which ranged from 0.15 to 1.15 % and 0.06 to 0.11 % respectively, reflect the oligotrophic character of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Both bulk and molecular organic tracers reflect a mixed contribution from autochthonous and allochthonous sources for the sedimentary OM, as indicated by relatively degraded marine OM, terrestrial plant waxes and anthropogenic OM (e.g. degraded petroleum by-products) respectively. Wide regional variations have been observed amongst the studied proxies, which reflect the multiple factors controlling sedimentation in the deep eastern Mediterranean Sea. Our findings highlight the role of deep eastern Mediterranean basins as depocentres of organic-rich fine-grained sediments (mean 5.4 ± 2.4 μm), with OM accumulation and burial being attributed to aggregation mechanisms and hydrodynamic sorting. A multi-proxy approach is applied aiming to investigate the biogeochemical composition of sediment samples, which sheds new light on the sources and transport mechanisms along with the impact of preservation vs. diagenetic processes on the composition of sedimentary OM in the deep basins of the oligotrophic eastern Mediterranean Sea.