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Free Content Bioturbation processes in continental slope and rise sediments delineated by Pb–210, microfossil and textural indicators

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Measurements of Pb-210 activities, in conjunction with micropaleontological, geotechnical and sedimentological observations, on sediment cores have been used to characterize two distinctive bioturbation regimes on the continental slope and rise east of Newfoundland. On the rise (2600 m), excess Pb-210 is confined to the upper few centimeters of the coarser-grained sediments underlying the axis of the Western Boundary Undercurrent. The geological and geochemical evidence for a low rate of bioturbation in this high bottom current regime is consistent with a reduced population of deeper burrowing macrofauna, particularly the species Maldane sarsi. In contrast, a higher flux of organic-rich, fine-grained particulate material to the middle slope (1500 m water depth), and the comparatively stable sedimentological conditions that prevail in this low bottom current regime, have led to the active colonization of the sediment substrate by bioturbating organisms. Enhanced mixing of middle slope deposits is reflected by comparatively lower shear strengths within the upper 30 cm of the sediment column, and by the reduced variability of the sediment-depth distribution of the most abundant species of foraminifera. Excess Pb-210 has been transported downward from the sediment-water interface to depths greater than 12 cm. Some Pb-210 profiles from the middle slope can be interpreted in terms of a diffusion mixing model for which the biological mixing coefficients are of the order of 0.10 – 1.0 cm2 yr−1.

Measurements of the two and three dimensional distribution of excess Pb-210 in one middle slope box core indicate that the mixing process in these sediments has a pronounced heterogeneous component on time scales of the same order as the half life of Pb-210 (22.3 yr). Spatial correlations between Pb-210 anomalies and artifacts of bioturbation observed in x-radiographs of the core suggest that Pb-210 maxima observed at depth may be the result of an inclined orientation of burrow structures which have introduced a significant lateral component to the downward transport of surficial sediments.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1984

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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