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Ecogeochemical fate of coarse organic particles in sediments of the Rhone River prodelta

CHARLES, Francois
LANTOİNE, Francois
Guarini, Jean-Marc
Yücel, Mustafa
Coarse particulate organic matter (CPOM) represents a small portion of the inner shelf sediments but occurs across all river outlets. To consider the ecogeochemical fate of CPOM in such an environment, we examined both the infauna community and secondary evidence of geochemical reactions preserved in the surface sediments of the Rhone prodelta. ICP-AES, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry of the CPOM showed that the fate of organic matter in this environment is driven by sulphate reduction and geochemical reactions resulting from the precipitation of sulfide due to the presence of large amounts of iron-bearing minerals. Leaf litter debris contained such high quantities of iron that after dry ashing the remaining material is easily attracted by a magnet. The observed geochemical trade-off was proposed as a mechanism that helps to maintain a bioturbating animal community that in turn contributes to the mineralization of organic matter within this suboxic environment. This study showed that the accumulation of refractory organic carbon in sediments was intimately associated with the sequestering of iron and sulphur by providing a nucleation point for mineral deposition and also that the extent of decomposition of the organic materials did not necessarily increase progressively from coarser to finer particles. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.