The sediment biogeochemistry of C, N, P and biologic silica (BSi) plays an important role in cycling of these elements in aquatic ecosystems. In shallow coastal and estuarine systems, water-sediment nutrient dynamics can influence biological processes (e.g., primary production) in overlying waters.
The objectives of this study are:
- characterize C, N, P and BSi geochemistry of the surface sediments in the Gulf of Riga,
- estimate the spatial distribution, including net flux and sink, for organic C, N and P in the Gulf of Riga,
- examine if there are any appropriate bulk, regional and/or vertical relationships between the nutrients,
- examine if nutrient biogeochemistry in surface sediments vary as a response to naturally occurring processes i.e., intensity of sedimentation and bioturbation, oxygen deficiency, variation of temperature
Spatial and vertical distribution reveals that organic C and N ratio is almost independent of sediment characteristics and location, and exhibit a stable value down the sediment core. Over 90 % of carbon and nitrogen in sediments is organic. In contrast, organic P constitutes less than 50 % of the total phosphorus pool. The organic C:N:P ratio in sediments indicate that N and P are decomposed preferentially to C, whereas P is decomposed preferentially to N. The stable C:N ratio in sediments indicates that preferential N decomposition occurs in water column and/or immediately upon settling at sediment surface. Distribution pattern of BSi suggests that accumulation rate of sediments controls BSi concentration. Although nutrient loading from drainage area increased drastically over the past 100 years, vertical profiles of C, N and BSi show no variation in element concentrations except in the top few centimeters. A corresponding increase of benthic biomass most likely results in low elemental accumulation in these sediments.
Although Gulf of Riga is one of the most productive areas in the Baltic Sea, seasonal alterations of C and N levels were limited. However, during spring and autumn algae blooms total C and N concentrations increased in the study area. Limited data suggests that burrowing amphipods directly impact the C and N concentrations in the top 2-3 cm of sediments. The vertical distribution of P is more dependent on oxygen concentration, which is largely controlled by bioturbation and sedimentation rates. Moreover, the results suggest that bioturbation is largely responsible for temporal accumulation of inorganic P in surface sediments.
The low unidirectional fluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) and dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) in early spring is consistent with low water temperature and poor nutritional quality of experimentally added material. The high water temperature and better nutritional quality of material added in summer, comparatively to winter, resulted in large DIN and DIP fluxes. Moreover, flux experiments under low oxygen conditions and pulse input of large quantities of settling seston suggest that sediment surface might experience lack of oxygen despite availability of oxygen in the overlying water column.
Stockholm: Stockholm University, 2001. , 11 p.