Istituto di Scienze Marine     
Fabres J., Tesi T., Velez J., Batista F., Lee C., Calafat A., Heussner S., Palanques A., Miserocchi S. Seasonal and event-controlled export of organic matter from the shelf towards the Gulf of Lions continental slope. In: Continental Shelf Research, vol. 28 (15) pp. 1971 - 1983. Pergamon-elsevier Science Ltd, 2008.
To investigate the role of coastal canyons in the transfer of organic matter from the shelf to the slope and basin, we deployed sediment trap/current meter pairs at the head of five canyons in the Gulf of Lions (GoL) between November 2003 and May 2004. Analysis of organic carbon, biogenic silica, Corg isotopic composition, Corg/total nitrogen, chloropigments, and amino acids clearly shows the seasonal influence and effect of extreme meteorological events on the composition of collected particles. The sampling period was divided into three “scenarios”. The first corresponded to a large easterly storm and flood of the Rhone river during stratified water column conditions; the composition of material collected during this event was influenced by increased transfer of riverine and coastal particulate matter, with a lower Corg content. During the second “fall-winter” scenario, northern and northwestern winds blowing over the shelf caused cooling and homogenization of the shelf water column; particles collected at this time reflected the homogeneous source of particulate matter transported through canyons; particles sitting in the vicinity of canyon heads are most likely swept downslope by the general south-westward circulation. Organic tracers indicate a degraded origin for organic matter transported during this period. A third “spring” scenario corresponded to northern winds alternating with eastward windstorms that triggered and/or enhanced the cascading of dense waters accumulated on the bottom of the shelf due to previous cooling. These conditions occurred in conjunction with increased phytoplankton productivity in shelf surface waters. Organic matter advected mainly by dense shelf water cascading was fresher due to the transport of newly produced particles and a variable terrestrial fraction; this fraction depended on the proportion of resuspended material accumulated during previous high discharge periods that was involved in each transport pulse. The tight link shown between meteorological conditions and organic matter transport is important for continental margin geochemical studies as future changes in climatic conditions may lead to dramatic changes in carbon sequestration capability and in the ecosystems of deep margin environments.
DOI: 10.1016/j.csr.2008.04.010
Subject Particulate flux
Organic matter
Continental slope
NW Mediterranean Sea
Gulf of Lions

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