Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Biogeosciences, 15, 3293–3309, 2018

Special issue: Progress in quantifying ocean biogeochemistry – in honour...

Biogeosciences, 15, 3293–3309, 2018

Research article 04 Jun 2018

Research article | 04 Jun 2018

Interannual sedimentary effluxes of alkalinity in the southern North Sea: model results compared with summer observations

Johannes Pätsch1, Wilfried Kühn1, and Katharina Dorothea Six2 Johannes Pätsch et al.
  • 1Theoretical Oceanography, Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2The Ocean in the Earth System, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. For the sediments of the central and southern North Sea different sources of alkalinity generation are quantified by a regional modelling system for the period 2000–2014. For this purpose a formerly global ocean sediment model coupled with a pelagic ecosystem model is adapted to shelf sea dynamics, where much larger turnover rates than in the open and deep ocean occur. To track alkalinity changes due to different nitrogen-related processes, the open ocean sediment model was extended by the state variables particulate organic nitrogen (PON) and ammonium. Directly measured alkalinity fluxes and those derived from Ra isotope flux observation from the sediment into the pelagic are reproduced by the model system, but calcite building and calcite dissolution are underestimated. Both fluxes cancel out in terms of alkalinity generation and consumption. Other simulated processes altering alkalinity in the sediment, like net sulfate reduction, denitrification, nitrification, and aerobic degradation, are quantified and compare well with corresponding fluxes derived from observations. Most of these fluxes exhibit a strong positive gradient from the open North Sea to the coast, where large rivers drain nutrients and organic matter. Atmospheric nitrogen deposition also shows a positive gradient from the open sea towards land and supports alkalinity generation in the sediments. An additional source of spatial variability is introduced by the use of a 3-D heterogenous porosity field. Due to realistic porosity variations (0.3–0.5) the alkalinity fluxes vary by about 4 %. The strongest impact on interannual variations of alkalinity fluxes is exhibited by the temporal varying nitrogen inputs from large rivers directly governing the nitrate concentrations in the coastal bottom water, thus providing nitrate necessary for benthic denitrification. Over the time investigated the alkalinity effluxes decrease due to the decrease in the nitrogen supply by the rivers.

Short summary
Biogeochemical shelf sea modelling has a long tradition. Most models include early diagenesis sediment modules for remineralization of organic matter. The model presented here also simulates alkalinity, which is exported into the pelagic system. There the produced alkalinity joins in the carbonate system and is able to buffer invading atmospheric CO2. The input of nitrate via rivers stimulates alkalinity generation within the sediment, which in turn reduces the acidification of coastal areas.
Final-revised paper