Kinetics of organic carbon mineralization and methane formation in marine sediments (Aarhus Bay, Denmark)

Dale, Andrew W., Flury, S., Fossing, H., Regnier, P., Røy, H., Scholze, C. and Jørgensen, B. B. (2019) Kinetics of organic carbon mineralization and methane formation in marine sediments (Aarhus Bay, Denmark) Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 252 . pp. 159-178. DOI 10.1016/j.gca.2019.02.033.

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Sediments were sampled at nine stations on a transect across a 7–10 m thick Holocene mud layer in Aarhus Bay, Denmark, to investigate the linkages between CH4 dynamics and the rate and depth distribution of organic matter degradation. High-resolution sulfate reduction rates determined by tracer experiments (35S-SRR) decreased by several orders of magnitude down through the mud layer. The rates showed a power law dependency on sediment age: SRR (nmol cm−3 d−1) = 106.18 × Age−2.17. The rate data were used to independently quantify enhanced SO42− transport by bioirrigation. Field data (SO42–, TCO2, T13CO2, NH4+ and CH4 concentrations) could be simulated with a reaction-transport model using the derived bioirrigation rates and assuming that the power law was continuous into the methanogenic sediments below the sulfate-methane transition zone (SMTZ). The model predicted an increase in anaerobic organic carbon mineralization rates across the transect from 2410 to 3540 nmol C cm−2 d−1 caused by an increase in the sediment accumulation rate. Although methanogenesis accounted for only ∼1% of carbon mineralization, a large relative increase in methanogenesis along the transect led to a considerable shallowing of the SMTZ from 428 to 257 cm. Methane gas bubbles appeared once a threshold in the sedimentation accumulation rate was surpassed.

The 35S-measured SRR data indicated active sulfate reduction throughout the SO42− zone whereas quasi-linear SO42− gradients over the same zone indicated insignificant sulfate reduction. This apparent inconsistency, observed at all stations, was reconciled by considering the transport of SO42− into the sediment by bioirrigation, which accounted for 94 ± 2% of the total SO42− flux across the sediment-water interface. The SRR determined from the quasi-linear SO42− gradients were two orders of magnitude lower than measured rates. We conclude that models solely based on SO42− concentration gradients will not capture high SRRs at the top of the sulfate reduction zone if they do not properly account for (i) SO42− influx by bioirrigation, and/or (ii) the continuity of organic matter reactivity with sediment depth or age.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Marine, Seabed, Gas accumulation, Methanogenesis, Sulfate reduction, Organic matter mineralization kinetics, Bioirrigation, Model
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-MG Marine Geosystems
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.gca.2019.02.033
ISSN: 0016-7037
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2019 09:51
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2019 07:01

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