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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-352
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-352
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  06 Oct 2020

06 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Organic carbon in surface sediments of the North Sea and Skagerrak

Markus Diesing, Terje Thorsnes, and Lilja Rún Bjarnadóttir Markus Diesing et al.
  • Geological Survey of Norway, Postal Box 6315 Torgarden, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

Abstract. Continental shelf sediments are places of both rapid organic carbon turnover and accumulation, while at the same time increasingly subjected to human-induced disturbances. Recent research suggests that shelf sediments might have a role to play as a natural climate solution, e.g. by protecting the seafloor against human-induced disturbance. However, we have an incomplete understanding about the centres of organic carbon accumulation and storage on continental shelves. To better constrain the rate of accumulation and the mass of organic carbon that is stored in sediments, we developed and applied a spatial modelling framework that allows to estimate those quantities from sparse observations and predictor variables known or suspected to influence the spatial patterns of these parameters. This paper presents spatial distribution patterns of organic carbon densities and accumulation rates in the North Sea and Skagerrak. We found that organic carbon stocks and accumulation rates are highest in the Norwegian Trough, while large parts of the North Sea are characterised by low stocks and zero net-accumulation. The total stock of organic carbon that is stored in the upper 0.1 m of sediments amounted to 230.5 ± 134.5 Tg, of which approximately 26 % are stored in the Norwegian Trough. Rates of organic carbon accumulation in the Norwegian Trough are on par with those reported from nearby fjords. We provide baseline datasets that could be used in marine management, e.g. for the establishment of carbon protection zones. Additionally, we highlight the complex nature of continental shelves with zones of rapid carbon cycling and accumulation juxtaposed, which will require further detailed and spatially explicit analyses to constrain sedimentary organic carbon stocks and accumulation rates globally.

Markus Diesing et al.

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Markus Diesing et al.

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Short summary
The upper 10 cm of the seafloor of the North Sea and Skagerrak contain 231 million tonnes of carbon in organic form. The Norwegian Trough, the deepest sedimentary basin in the studied area, stands out as a zone of strong organic carbon accumulation with rates on par with neighbouring fjords. Conversely, large parts of the North Sea are characterised by rapid organic carbon degradation and negligible accumulation. This dual character is likely typical for continental shelf sediments worldwide.
The upper 10 cm of the seafloor of the North Sea and Skagerrak contain 231 million tonnes of...
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