Title

Insights into estuarine benthic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) dynamics using δ13C-DOC values, phospholipid fatty acids and dissolved organic nutrient fluxesghts into estuarine benthic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) dynamics using

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Maher, DT & Eyre, BD 2011, 'Insights into estuarine benthic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) dynamics using δ13C-DOC values, phospholipid fatty acids and dissolved organic nutrient fluxes', Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 75, no. 7, pp. 1889-1902.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2011.01.007

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

Benthic dissolved organic carbon (DOC) flux rates and changes in DOC isotope ratios, along with nutrient fluxes, phospholipid fatty acids concentration and carbon isotope ratios were measured in productive estuarine sediments over a diel cycle to determine the mechanisms driving benthic–pelagic coupling of DOC. There was uptake of DOC during the dark and efflux during the light at all sites. DOC uptake rates were related to benthic respiration (dark O2 uptake) and effluxes were coupled to the trophic status (ratio of production to respiration) of the sediments. Highest uptake and efflux rates were observed at two high nutrient concentration sites. The DOC:DON ratio of water column dissolved organic matter (DOM) decreased during the dark and increased during the light indicating preferential uptake and release of carbon rich dissolved organic matter. The calculated carbon isotope ratio of the DOC taken up by the benthos was significantly more depleted than the bulk water column DOC pool, suggesting preferential uptake of selected components of the water column DOC pool. Generally the isotope ratio of the DOC released during the light was more enriched than that taken up during the dark, which suggests that the benthos has the potential to significantly alter the estuarine DOC pool. Uptake and efflux were coupled to respiration and algal grazing/mineralization, therefore increased nutrient loading may shift the composition of the estuarine DOC pool through changes in the magnitude of benthic DOC fluxes. A combination of biological (diel shifts in DOC production and consumption) and abiotic processes (flocculation) appear to be driving the observed benthic DOC dynamics at the study sites. This study was the first to measure carbon isotopic changes in the water column DOC pool due to benthic processes, and shows that the benthos can alter the estuarine DOC pool through diel differences in DOC uptake and efflux.