Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 819–828 | Cite as

Organic carbon and biogenic silica in marine sediments in the vicinities of the Antarctic Peninsula: spatial patterns across a climatic gradient

Original Paper


To assess whether sea floor sediment reflects the characteristics of the upper water column, organic carbon (OC) and biogenic silica (bSi) were measured in seventeen 5-cm-long sediment cores recovered within a climatic gradient from the northwestern Weddell Sea (WS) to the Drake Passage (DP) across the Bransfield Strait (BS). Climate settings in the study area vary from dry and cold (polar) conditions with seasonal sea ice coverage in the WS to a more humid and warm (oceanic) environment where no seasonal sea ice develops in the DP, with the BS as transitional zone undergoing seasonal sea ice coverage. OC varied between 0.2 and 1.7 % and represented more than 90 % of the total carbon, and bSi varied between 2 and 13 %. The profiles of both variables along the sediment cores suggested that the surface mixed layer is at least 5 cm thick. The inventories of the upper 5 cm of the sediment column were calculated for both variables. Regional averages were significantly lower for OC in DP samples and higher for bSi in the BS. These results suggested relatively high bSi export to the seabed in the BS, higher degradation for OC in the DP and lower bSi export from the euphotic zone in the WS. The observations made evident that the biogenic matter contents in the sediment not necessarily replicate their production characteristics at the upper ocean even across strong climatic gradients. The results may provide a useful baseline for paleo-reconstructions in a rapidly changing environment.


Antarctic Peninsula Pelagic–benthic coupling Biogenic silica Organic carbon Sediment 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut de Ciències del Mar-CSICBarcelonaSpain

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