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Organic matter export to the seafloor in the Baltic Sea: Drivers of change and future projections

Abstract

The impact of environmental change and anthropogenic stressors on coastal marine systems will strongly depend on changes in the magnitude and composition of organic matter exported from the water column to the seafloor. Knowledge of vertical export in the Baltic Sea is synthesised to illustrate how organic matter deposition will respond to climate warming, climate-related changes in freshwater runoff, and ocean acidification. Pelagic heterotrophic processes are suggested to become more important in a future warmer climate, with negative feedbacks to organic matter deposition to the seafloor. This is an important step towards improved oxygen conditions in the near-bottom layer that will reduce the release of inorganic nutrients from the sediment and hence counteract further eutrophication. The evaluation of these processes in ecosystem models, validated by field observations, will significantly advance the understanding of the system’s response to environmental change and will improve the use of such models in management of coastal areas.

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Acknowledgements

We are indebted to Lena Seuthe who compiled the POC flux and pelagic biomass data from the Arctic Ocean and to Marit Reigstad who kindly made unpublished data from the project CarbonBridge (Reserach Council of Norway, nr. 226415) available. We thank Alf Norkko and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved the quality of the mansucript. This study was financially supported by the Swedish Cultural Foundation in Finland and the Walter and Andrée de Nottbeck Foundation.

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Correspondence to Tobias Tamelander.

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Tamelander, T., Spilling, K. & Winder, M. Organic matter export to the seafloor in the Baltic Sea: Drivers of change and future projections. Ambio 46, 842–851 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-017-0930-x

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Keywords

  • Acidification
  • Baltic Sea
  • Climate warming
  • Eutrophication
  • Organic matter export
  • Pelagic food web