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Spatial variability of biogeochemistry in shallow coastal benthic communities of Potter Cove (Antarctica) and the impact of a melting glacier

Journal article
Authors R. Hoffmann
F. Pasotti
S. Vazquez
N. Lefaible
Anders Torstensson
W. MacCormack
F. Wenzhofer
U. Braeckman
Published in PLoS ONE
Volume 13
Issue 12
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Language en
Keywords king-george-island, sea-ice, marine, sediment, water, carbon, dynamics, bacteria, shelf, microsensor,
Subject categories Marine ecology


Measurements of biogeochemical fluxes at the sediment-water interface are essential to investigate organic matter mineralization processes but are rarely performed in shallow coastal areas of the Antarctic. We investigated biogeochemical fluxes across the sediment-water interface in Potter Cove (King George Island/Isla 25 de Mayo) at water depths between 6-9 m. Total fluxes of oxygen and inorganic nutrients were quantified in situ. Diffusive oxygen fluxes were also quantified in situ, while diffusive inorganic nutrient fluxes were calculated from pore water profiles. Biogenic sediment compounds (concentration of pigments, total organic and inorganic carbon and total nitrogen), and benthic prokaryotic, meio-, and macrofauna density and biomass were determined along with abiotic parameters (sediment granulometry and porosity). The measurements were performed at three locations in Potter Cove, which differ in terms of sedimentary influence due to glacial melt. In this study, we aim to assess secondary effects of glacial melting such as ice scouring and particle release on the benthic community and the biogeochemical cycles they mediate. Furthermore, we discuss small-scale spatial variability of biogeochemical fluxes in shallow water depth and the required food supply to cover the carbon demand of Potter Cove's shallow benthic communities. We found enhanced mineralization in soft sediments at one location intermediately affected by glacial melt-related effects, while a reduced mineralization was observed at a location influenced by glacial melting. The benthic macrofauna assemblage constituted the major benthic carbon stock (>87% of total benthic biomass) and was responsible for most benthic organic matter mineralization. However, biomass of the dominant Antarctic bivalve Latemula elliptica, which contributed 39-69% to the total macrofauna biomass, increased with enhanced glacial melt-related influence. This is contrary to the pattern observed for the remaining macrofauna. Our results further indicated that pelagic primary production is able to fully supply Potter Cove's benthic carbon demand. Therefore, Potter Cove seems to be an autotrophic ecosystem in the summer season.

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