Sediment community metabolism associated with continental shelf hypoxia, Northern Gulf of Mexico
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Net fluxes of respiratory metabolites (O2, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), NH4+, NO3-, and NO2-) across the sediment-water interface were measured using in-situ benthic incubation chambers in the area of intermittent seasonal hypoxia associated with the Mississippi River plume. Sulfate reduction was measured in sediments incubated with trace levels of 35S-labeled sulfate. Heterotrophic remineralization, measured as nutrient regeneration, sediment community oxygen consumption (SOC), sulfate reduction, or DIC production, varied positively as a function of temperature. SOC was inversely related to oxygen concentration of the bottom water. The DIC fluxes were more than 2 times higher than SOC alone, under hypoxic conditions, suggesting that oxygen uptake alone cannot be used to estimate total community remineralization under conditions of low oxygen concentration in the water column. A carbon budget is constructed that compares sources, stocks, transformations, and sinks of carbon in the top meter of sediment. A comparison of remineralization processes within the sediments implicates sulfate reduction as most important, followed by aerobic respiration and denitrification. Bacteria accounted for more than 90% of the total community biomass, compared to the metazoan invertebrates, due presumably to hypoxic stress.