East Siberian Sea, an Arctic region of very high biogeochemical activity
Abstract. Shelf seas are among the most active biogeochemical marine environments and the East Siberian Sea is a prime example. This sea is supplied by seawater from both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and has a substantial input of river runoff. All of these waters contribute chemical constituents, dissolved and particulate, but of different signatures. Sea ice formation during the winter season and melting in the summer has a major impact on physical as well as biogeochemical conditions. The internal circulation and water mass distribution is significantly influenced by the atmospheric pressure field. The western region is dominated by input of river runoff from the Laptev Sea and an extensive input of terrestrial organic matter. The microbial decay of this organic matter produces carbon dioxide (CO2) that oversaturates all waters from the surface to bottom relative to atmospheric level, even when primary production, inferred from low surface water nutrients, has occurred. The eastern surface waters were under-saturated with respect to CO2 illustrating the dominance of marine primary production. The drawdown of dissolved inorganic carbon equals a primary production of ~0.8 ± 2 mol C m−2, which when multiplied by half the area of the East Siberian Sea, ~500 000 km2, results in an annual primary production of 0.4 (± 1) × 1012 mol C or ~4 (± 10) × 1012 gC. Microbial decay occurs through much of the water column, but dominates at the sediment interface where the majority of organic matter ends up, thus more of the decay products are recycled to the bottom water. High nutrient concentrations and fugacity of CO2 and low oxygen and pH were observed in the bottom waters. Another signature of organic matter decomposition, methane (CH4), was observed in very high but variable concentrations. This is due to its seabed sources of glacial origin or modern production from ancient organic matter, becoming available due to sub-sea permafrost thaw and formation of so-called taliks. The decay of organic matter to CO2 as well as oxidation of CH4 to CO2 contribute to a natural ocean acidification making the saturation state of calcium carbonate low, resulting in under-saturation of all the bottom waters with respect to aragonite and large areas of under-saturation down to 50 % with respect to calcite. Hence, conditions for calcifying organisms are very unfavorable.