Benthic metabolism and sediment nitrogen cycling in Baltic sea coastal areas the role of eutrophication, hypoxia and bioturbation

University dissertation from Department of Geological Sciences, Stockholm Univeristy

Abstract: Eutrophication is one of the greatest threats for the Baltic Sea, and one of its more critical consequences is bottom water hypoxia. Nutrient enrichment and oxygen-depletion affect both the deep central basins and a number of coastal areas, even though strategies for nutrient reduction have lately been implemented. In order to better understand why those threats are expanding and formulate more effective remediation strategies two main achievements are needed: (1) new data on benthic nutrient dynamics should be available in order to develop updated budgets for sensitive Baltic areas; (2) the main transformation processes and their regulation mechanisms (i.e. oxygen availability, presence of macrofauna, different organic loading scenarios) should be better constrained.Paper I was able to demonstrate that re-oxygenation of previously anoxic sediment has a positive effect on the ecosystem because of better retention of nutrients and efficient conversion of fixed nitrogen to nitrogen gas. Sediment colonization by the invasive genus Marenzelleria counteracts some of the positive aspects provided by benthic oxygenation (in particular, nutrient retention, N2 loss). A possible explanation for this reversal can be that Marenzelleria does stimulate anaerobic more that aerobic metabolism.Results from Paper II suggest that at the outermost stations of HimmerfjÀrden denitrification follows a pronounced seasonal pattern, primarily regulated by bottom water temperatures. At the innermost and impacted site oxygen level in the bottom water varies considerably during the year and causes denitrification/DNRA predominance to be the main nitrate reduction pathway. On an annual scale, the net amount of lost N2 is comparable at the four sampling sites and accounts for 96% of the total DIN discharged from the sewage treatment plant, suggesting that denitrification in the estuarine sediment acts as a major nitrogen sink for external N inputs.