Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 287–296 | Cite as

Sedimentary trace element sinks in a tropical upwelling system

  • Manuel Moreira
  • Rut Díaz
  • Helenice Santos
  • Ursula Mendoza
  • Michael E. Böttcher
  • Ramses Capilla
  • Ana L. Albuquerque
  • Wilson MachadoEmail author
Sediments, Sec 2 • Physical and Biogeochemical Processes • Research Article



The accumulation of trace elements in sediments from highly productive continental margins may depend on the affinity of these elements for organic matter and their degrees of further incorporation into pyrite (FeS2). We tested the hypothesis that the relative contributions of these geochemical phases play a substantial role as trace element (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, and Zn) sinks in the highly bioturbated sediments from the tropical upwelling system off Cabo Frio, southeastern Brazil.

Materials and methods

Four sediment cores sampled across the Cabo Frio continental shelf were submitted to a sequential extraction procedure performed to separate three different operationally defined fractions, i.e., the geochemical phases soluble in 1 M HCl (considered as the “reactive” fraction), concentrated H2SO4 (considered as the organic matter-bound phase), and concentrated HNO3 (considered as the pyrite-bound phase). The trace metal incorporation into pyrite was assessed by estimating the degree of trace metal pyritization (DTMP), while the pyrite sulfur stable isotope signatures (δ 34SPyr) were used as proxies for sulfur redox cycling intensity.

Results and discussion

Relative contributions of trace element fixation by organic matter and pyrite were positively correlated for Mn, Cr, and Ni on one hand, and negative correlated for Cu, on the other hand. The positive correlations imply in synergistic roles of these geochemical phases in determining the trace elements sedimentary sinks, while the negative relationship found for Cu reflects differences in the predominant retention mechanisms along with sediment burial. The δ34SPyr signatures were negatively correlated with DTMP values of As, Cd, and Mn, suggesting a diminishing effect of the sulfur redox cycling on trace elements pyritization. These δ 34SPyr signatures were not correlated with DTMP values of Cr, Cu, and Ni, which were dominantly associated with the high organic matter contents found in this upwelling system.


The role of pelagic organic matter scavenging of metals and later fueling of benthic microbial sulfate reduction and pyrite accumulation were evidenced as highly variable across the Cabo Frio shelf sediments. Differences in the organic matter accumulation in response to upwelling-enhanced primary productivity and in the intensity of bioturbation-driven sulfur redox cycling help to explain the spatial variability in the biogeochemical processes affecting the sedimentary trace metal sinks.


Degree of pyritization Organic matter binding Redox dynamics Stable sulfur isotopes Trace elements Upwelling system 



This work was funded by the Geochemistry Network of PETROBRAS/CENPES and the Brazilian National Petroleum and the Biofuels Agency (ANP). MM and RD received grants from Rio de Janeiro State Research Foundation (FAPERJ) and Brazilian Ministry of Education (CAPES). MEB received support from Leibniz IOW, and wishes to thank I. Scherff and P. Escher (IOW) for analytical support, and the late J.W. Morse for inspiring discussions.

Supplementary material

11368_2017_1803_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel Moreira
    • 1
  • Rut Díaz
    • 1
  • Helenice Santos
    • 1
  • Ursula Mendoza
    • 1
  • Michael E. Böttcher
    • 2
  • Ramses Capilla
    • 3
  • Ana L. Albuquerque
    • 1
  • Wilson Machado
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Projeto Ressurgência Team, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Geoquímica, Departamento de Geoquímica, Instituto de QuímicaUniversidade Federal FluminenseNiteróiBrazil
  2. 2.Geochemistry and Isotope Biogeochemistry Group, Marine Geology DepartmentLeibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research (IOW)WarnemündeGermany
  3. 3.Petrobras/Cenpes/GeoquímicaCidade UniversitáriaIlha do FundãoBrazil

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