Denitrification in sediments as a major nitrogen sink in the Baltic Sea: an extrapolation using sediment characteristics
Abstract. Rates of denitrification in sediments were measured with the isotope pairing technique at different sites in the southern and central Baltic Sea. The rates varied between 0.5 μmol N m−2 h−1 in sands and 28.7 μmol N m−2 h−1 in muddy sediments and showed a good correlation to the organic carbon contents of the surface sediments. N-removal rates via sedimentary denitrification were estimated for the entire Baltic Sea calculating sediment specific denitrification rates and interpolating them to the whole Baltic Sea area. Another approach was carried out by using the relationship between the organic carbon content and the rate of denitrification. The N-removal by denitrification in sediments varied between 426–652 kt N a−1, which is around 48–73% of the external N inputs delivered via rivers, coastal point sources, and atmospheric deposition. Moreover, an expansion of the anoxic bottom areas was considered under the assumption of a rising oxycline from 100 to 80 m water depth. This leads to an increase of the area with anoxic conditions and an overall decrease in sedimentary denitrification by 14%. Overall, we show here that this type of data extrapolation is a powerful tool to estimate the nitrogen losses for a whole coastal sea and may be applicable to other coastal regions and enclosed seas.