CARBON BUDGET FOR THE MID-SLOPE DEPOCENTER OF THE MIDDLE ATLANTIC BIGHT
Additional Document Info
A mass budget was constructed for organic carbon on the upper slope of the Middle Atlantic Bight, a region thought to serve as a depocenter for fine-grained material exported from the adjacent shelf. Various components of the budget are internally consistent, and observed differences can be attributed to natural spatial variability or to the different time scales over which measurements were made. The flux of organic carbon to the sediments in the core of the depocenter zone, at a water depth of 1000 m, was measured with sediment traps to be 65 mg C m -2 day -1 , of which 6-24 mg C m -2 day -1 is buried. Oxygen fluxes into the sediments, measured with incubation chambers attached to a free vehicle lander, correspond to total carbon remineralization rates of 49-70 mg C m -2 day -1 . Carbon remineralization rates estimated from gradients of C org within the mixed layer, and from gradients of dissolved ammonia and phosphate in pore waters, sum to only 4-6 mg C m -2 day -1 . Most of the C org remineralization in slope sediments is mediated by bacteria and takes place within a few mm of the sediment-water interface. Most of the C org deposited on the upper slope sediments is supplied by lateral transport from other regions, but even if all of this material were derived from the adjacent shelf, it represents <2% of the mean annual shelf productivity. This value is further lowered by recognizing that as much as half of the C org deposited on the slope is refractory, having originated by reworking from older deposits. Refractory C org arrives at the sea bed with an average 14 C age 600-900 years older than the pre-bomb 14 C age of DIC in seawater, and has a mean life in the sediments with respect to biological remineralization of at least 1000 years. Labile carbon supplied to the slope, on the other hand, is rapidly and (virtually) completely remineralized, with a mean life of < 1 year. Carbon-14 ages of fine-grained carbonate and organic carbon present within the interstices of shelf sands are consistent with this material acting as a source for the old carbon supplied to the slope. Winnowing and export of reworked carbon may contribute to the often-described relationship between organic carbon preservation and accumulation rate of marine sediments. 1994.