Project Information
Organic Carbon Oxidation and Iron Remobilization by West Antarctic Shelf Sediments
Start Date:
End Date:
The continental shelf region west of the Antarctic Peninsula has recently undergone dramatic changes and ecosystem shifts, and the community of organisms that live in, or feed off, the sea floor sediments is being impacted by species invasions from the north. Previous studies of these sediments indicate that this community may consume much more of the regional productivity than previously estimated, suggesting that sediments are a rich and important component of this ecosystem and one that may be ripe for dramatic change. Furthermore, under richer sediment conditions, iron is mobilized and released back to the water column. Since productivity in this ecosystem is thought to be limited by the availability of iron, increased rates of iron release from these sediments could stimulate productivity and promote greater overall ecosystem change. In this research, a variety of sites across the shelf region will be sampled to accurately evaluate the role of sediments in consuming ecosystem productivity and to estimate the current level of iron release from the sediments. This project will provide a baseline set of sediment results that will present a more complete picture of the west Antarctic shelf ecosystem, will allow for comparison with water column measurements and for evaluation of the fundamental workings of this important ecosystem. This is particularly important since high latitude systems may be vulnerable to the effects of climate fluctuations. Both graduate and undergraduate students will be trained. Presentations will be made at scientific meetings, at other universities, and at outreach events. A project web site will present key results to the public and explain how this new information improves understanding of Antarctic ecosystems.

Technical Description of Project:
In order to determine the role of sediments within the west Antarctic shelf ecosystem, this project will determine the rates of sediment organic matter oxidation at a variety of sites across the Palmer Long Term Ecosystem Research (LTER) study region. To estimate the rates of release of iron and manganese from the sediments, these same sites will be sampled for detailed vertical distributions of the concentrations of these metals both in the porewaters and in important mineral phases. Since sediment sampling will be done at LTER sites, the sediment data can be correlated with the rich productivity data set from the LTER. In detail, the project: a) will determine the rates of oxygen consumption, organic carbon oxidation, nutrient release, and iron mobilization by shelf sediments west of the Antarctic Peninsula; b) will investigate the vertical distribution of diagenetic reactions within the sediments; and c) will assess the regional importance of these sediment rates. Sediment cores will be used to determine sediment-water fluxes of dissolved oxygen, total carbon dioxide, nutrients, and the vertical distributions of these dissolved compounds, as well as iron and manganese in the pore waters. Bulk sediment properties of porosity, organic carbon and nitrogen content, carbonate content, biogenic silica content, and multiple species of solid-phase iron, manganese, and sulfur species will also be determined. These measurements will allow determination of total organic carbon oxidation and denitrification rates, and the proportion of aerobic versus anaerobic respiration at each site. Sediment diagenetic modeling will link the processes of organic matter oxidation to metal mobilization. Pore water and solid phase iron and manganese distributions will be used to model iron diagenesis in these sediments and to estimate the iron flux from the sediments to the overlying waters. Finally, the overall regional average and distribution of the sediment processes will be compared with the distributions of seasonally averaged chlorophyll biomass and productivity.
Person Role
Burdige, David Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 1551195
Deployment Type
NBP1601 ship expedition
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Repository Title (link) Status
MGDS Expedition data of NBP1601 exists