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Free Content A carbon budget for a eutrophic marine ecosystem and the role of sulfur metabolism in sedimentary carbon, oxygen and energy dynamics

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Organic carbon was budgeted for an experimental marine ecosystem which received 21.2 mol C m–2 of allochthonous sewage sludge plus 12.4 mol C m–2 in situ net daytime production over a 99 day experiment. The fate of carbon, in order of importance, was remineralization, storage in the sediments and export. Sediment carbon metabolism was dominated by sulfate reduction which resulted in the dissociation of organic carbon remineralization from oxygen consumption and energy cycling. The sediments were inefficient in processing sedimented carbon and its associated chemical energy. About 70% of the energy reaching the sediments as organic carbon remained as accumulated carbon and sulfide minerals at the end of the experiment (71% of remaining energy was in the form of unrespired C and with the remaining 29% of energy stored as precipitated sulfides). Sediment oxygen consumption was a poor estimator of benthic metabolism. Total CO2 flux from the sediments was, however, balanced by the sum of sediment oxygen consumption plus oxygen equivalents stored as sedimentary sulfides.

Sludge additions drove the experimental ecosystem to a eutrophic state with periods of severe oxygen depletion, death of macrofauna, hydrogen sulfide concentrations in excess of 1 mmolar in surface sediments, and the presence of a white filamentous bacterial mat over the sediment surface.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1991

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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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