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Strong gradient of benthic biogeochemical processes along a macrotidal temperate estuary: focus on P and Si cycles

Abstract

This study aims to investigate the role of spatial and temporal physical, biological and biogeochemical gradients on sediment biogeochemistry along a macrotidal and Si-rich estuary. Scanning and biogeochemical analyses were performed in the inner, mid and outer Aulne Estuary (France) at four seasons. The inner estuary shows high diagenetic activity linked to fluid mud dynamics and river loads. The highest authigenic phosphorus (Aut-P) concentrations ever found in the literature are observed in the inner estuary (18 μmol g−1 PS sediment). This is explained by a combination of favorable factors, i.e. the high organic matter and nutrient loads, the reductive conditions, the freshwater properties (low pH, OH, sulfate and Mg2+ concentrations), the increase of particle residence time by the upward convergence of particles due to residual currents, and allochthonous riverine Aut-P. We suggest that the high Si(OH)4 concentrations (>400 μM) may even increase Aut-P precipitation through the increase of Fe–P formation in these low salinity conditions. In the mid estuary, erosion–deposition dynamics dominate in point bars and lead to the succession of poor and rich organic and authigenic phosphorus layers, recording thus the seasonality of matter loads and its seasonal translocation from the inner estuary. In the outer estuary, deposition rates are high and constant and biogeochemical properties are characteristic of marine environments. The precipitation of Aut-P from free phosphate (PO4 3−) is lower than in the inner estuary and might be limited by higher Mg2+ concentrations in saline waters. This study highlights that small macrotidal estuaries, and especially their freshwater sediments, may constitute an important phosphorus sink through the precipitation of Aut-P. This precipitation could even be enhanced in fresh or brackish environments, thus increasing long term phosphorus storage and altering benthic fluxes of PO4 3− to the pelagic ecosystem.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Silicate (or orthosilicic acid) is noted Si(OH)4 for simplification and is mainly present as H4SiO4.

  2. 2.

    Inorganic phosphate (or orthophosphate) is noted PO4 3− for simplification. The predominant forms are HPO4 2− and H2PO4 in fresh and marine waters.

  3. 3.

    CV is the coefficient of variation e.g. the standard deviation as a percentage of the mean.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the French National Program for Coastal Environment (PNEC-EC2CO), the Conseil Général du Finistère and the Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche. We gratefully thank the R/V Côtes de la Manche crew, Manon Le Goff, Agnès Youenou, Christophe Rabouille, Bruno Bombled and Julien Queré for their valuable aid for cores sampling and processing, Erwan Amice and Robert Marc for their helpful assistance on board the Hésione (IUEM), Eric Legoff, Nicole Gouriou and Elisabeth Bruyant for their assistance at the hospital, Monique Briand for her help with figures, and Zosia Baumann for her language edition advices. We sincerely thank two reviewers and especially Tom Jilbert for his insightful critical comments and suggestions.

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Raimonet, M., Andrieux-Loyer, F., Ragueneau, O. et al. Strong gradient of benthic biogeochemical processes along a macrotidal temperate estuary: focus on P and Si cycles. Biogeochemistry 115, 399–417 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10533-013-9843-3

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Keywords

  • Early diagenesis
  • Silicate
  • Phosphate
  • Authigenic phosphorus
  • Macrotidal
  • Estuary