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Enhanced regeneration of phosphorus during formation of the most recent eastern Mediterranean sapropel (S1)

By C.P. Slomp, J. Thomson and G.J. de Lange


Phosphorus regeneration and burial fluxes during and after formation of the most recent sapropel S1 were determined for two deep-basin, low-sedimentation sites in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Organic C/P ratios and burial fluxes indicate enhanced regeneration of P relative to C during deposition of sapropel S1. This is largely due to the enhanced release of P from organic matter during sulfate reduction. Release of P from Fe-bound P also increased, but this was only a relatively minor source of dissolved P. Pore-water HPO42− concentrations remained too low for carbonate fluorapatite formation. An increased burial of biogenic Ca-P (i.e., fish debris) was observed for one site. Estimated benthic fluxes of P during sapropel formation were elevated relative to the present day (~900 to 2800 vs. ~70 to 120 μmol m−2 yr−1). The present-day sedimentary P cycle in the deep-basin sediments is characterized by two major zones of reaction: (1) the zone near the sediment-water interface where substantial release of HPO42− from organic matter takes place, and (2) the oxidation front at the top of the S1 where upward-diffusing HPO42− from below the sapropel is sorbed to Fe-oxides. The efficiency of aerobic organisms in retaining P is reflected in the low organic C/P ratios in the oxidized part of the sapropel. Burial efficiencies for reactive P were significantly lower during S1 times compared with the present day (~7 to 15% vs. 64 to 77%). Budget calculations for the eastern Mediterranean Sea demonstrate that the weakening of the antiestuarine circulation and the enhanced regeneration of P both contributed to a significant increase in deep-water HPO42− concentrations during sapropel S1 times. Provided that sufficient vertical mixing occurred, enhanced regeneration of P at the seafloor may have played a key role in maintaining increased productivity during sapropel S1 formation

Topics: Aardwetenschappen
Year: 2002
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