Regional distribution patterns of chemical parameters in surface sediments of the south-western Baltic Sea and their possible causes

Abstract

This study presents selected results of a sediment geochemical mapping program of German territorial waters in the south-western Baltic Sea. The field work was conducted mainly during the early 2000s. Due to the strong variability of sediment types in the study area, it was decided to separate and analyse the fine fraction (<63 μm, mud) from more than 600 surficial samples, combined with recalculations for the bulk sediment. For the contents of total organic carbon (TOC) and selected elements (P, Hg), the regional distribution maps show strong differences between the analysed fine fraction and the recalculated total sediment. Seeing that mud contents vary strongly between 0 and 100%, this can be explained by the well-known grain-size effect. To avoid (or at least minimise) this effect, further interpretations were based on the data for the fine fraction alone. Lateral transport from the large Oder River estuary combined with high abundances and activities of benthic fauna on the shallow-water Oder Bank (well sorted fine sand) could be some main causes for hotspots identified in the fine-fraction element distribution. The regional pattern of primary production as the main driver of nutrient element fixation (C, N, P, Si) was found to be only weakly correlated with, for example, the TOC distribution in the fine fraction. This implies that, besides surface sediment dynamics, local conditions (e.g. benthic secondary production) also have strong impacts. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there is no comparable study with geochemical analyses of the fine fraction of marine sediments to this extent (13,600 km2) and coverage (between 600 and 800 data points) in the Baltic Sea. This aspect proved pivotal in confidently pinpointing geochemical “anomalies” in surface sediments of the south-western Baltic Sea.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the provision of weather forecast data from the German Weather Service (DWD) and the kind assistance with laboratory work by Ines Scherff, Sibylle Fink, Anke Bender and Anne Köhler. Special thanks go to Prof. Caroline Slomp, Utrecht, Holland, for analyses of P speciation in a selected set of our samples. We are grateful to the reviewers and the editors for constructive and critical comments. The SECOS project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (http://bio-50.io-warnemuende.de/secos/). RF was partly funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research in the KÜNO Project MOSSCO (03F0740B), and by the BONUS-BaltCoast project (03F0717A). Supercomputing power was provided by HLRN (North-German Supercomputing Alliance).

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Leipe, T., Naumann, M., Tauber, F. et al. Regional distribution patterns of chemical parameters in surface sediments of the south-western Baltic Sea and their possible causes. Geo-Mar Lett 37, 593–606 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00367-017-0514-6

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