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Microbial Sulfide Filter along a Benthic Redox Gradient in the Eastern Gotland Basin, Baltic Sea

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2017-02-09
Yücel, Mustafa
SOMMER, Stefan
Dale, Andrew W.
PFANNKUCHE, Olaf
The sediment-water interface is an important site for material exchange in marine systems and harbor unique microbial habitats. The flux of nutrients, metals, and greenhouse gases at this interface may be severely dampened by the activity of microorganisms and abiotic redox processes, leading to the "benthic filter" concept. In this study, we investigate the spatial variability, mechanisms and quantitative importance of a microbially-dominated benthic filter for dissolved sulfide in the Eastern Gotland Basin (Baltic Sea) that is located along a dynamic redox gradient between 65 and 173m water depth. In August-September 2013, high resolution (0.25 mm minimum) vertical microprofiles of redox-sensitive species were measured in surface sediments with solid-state gold-amalgam voltammetric microelectrodes. The highest sulfide consumption (2.73-3.38 mmol m(-2) day(-1)) occurred within the top 5 mm in sediments beneath a pelagic hypoxic transition zone (HTZ, 80-120m water depth) covered by conspicuous white bacterial mats of genus Beggiatoa. A distinct voltammetric signal for polysulfides, a transient sulfur oxidation intermediate, was consistently observed within the mats. In sediments under anoxic waters (> 140m depth), signals for Fe(II) and aqueous FeS appeared below a subsurface maximum in dissolved sulfide, indicating a Fe(II) flux originating from older sediments presumably deposited during the freshwater Ancylus Lake that preceded the modern Baltic Sea. Our results point to a dynamic benthic sulfur cycling in Gotland Basin where benthic sulfide accumulation is moderated by microbial sulfide oxidation at the sediment surface and FeS precipitation in deeper sediment layers. Upscaling our fluxes to the Baltic Proper; we find that up to 70% of the sulfide flux (2281 kton yr(-1)) toward the sediment-seawater interface in the entire basin can be consumed at the microbial mats under the HTZ (80-120m water depth) while only about 30% the sulfide flux effuses to the bottom waters (> 120m depth). This newly described benthic filter for the Gotland Basin must play a major role in limiting the accumulation of sulfide in and around the deep basins of the Baltic Sea.