Carbonate chemistry in sediment pore waters of the Rhône River delta driven by early diagenesis (NW Mediterranean)

The Rhône River is the largest source of terrestrial organic and inorganic carbon for the Mediterranean Sea, and a large fraction thereof is buried or mineralized in the sediments close to the river mouth. The mineralization follows aerobic and anaerobic pathways with varying impacts on the carbonate chemistry in the sediment pore waters. This study focused on the production of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) by early diagenesis at the sediment water-interface, consequential pH variations and the effect on calcium carbonate precipitation or dissolution. The sediment pore water chemistry was investigated during the DICASE cruise along a transect from the Rhône River outlet to the continental shelf. The concentrations of DIC, TA, SO42− and Ca2+ were analyzed on bottom waters and extracted pore waters, whereas pH and oxygen concentrations were measured in situ using microelectrodes. The average oxygen penetration depth into the sediment was 1.7 ± 0.4 mm in the proximal domain and 8.2 ± 2.6 mm in the distal domain, indicating intense aerobic respiration rates. Diffusive oxygen fluxes through the sediment water interface range between 3 and 13 mmol O2 m−2 d−1. The DIC and TA concentrations increased with depth in the sediment pore waters up to 48 mmol L−1 near the river outlet and up to 7 mmol L−1 on the shelf as a result of aerobic and anaerobic mineralization processes. Due to oxic processes, the pH decreased by 0.6 pH units in the oxic layer of the sediment accompanied by a decrease of the saturation state regarding calcium carbonate. In the anoxic part of the sediments, sulfate reduction was seen to be the dominant mineralization process and was associated to an increase of pore water saturation state regarding calcium carbonate. Ultimately anoxic mineralization of organic matter caused calcium carbonate precipitation as shown by large decrease in Ca2+ concentration with depth in the sediment. The saturation state and carbonate precipitation decreased in offshore direction, together with the carbon turnover and sulfate consumption in the sediments.

Rassmann J., Lansard B., Pozzato L. & Rabouille C., 2016. Carbonate chemistry in sediment pore waters of the Rhône River delta driven by early diagenesis (NW Mediterranean). Biogeosciences Discussions 1-35. Article.

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