Indexed on: 16 Oct '15Published on: 16 Oct '15Published in: PloS one
The past decades have seen remarkable changes in the Arctic, a hotspot for climate change. Nevertheless, impacts of such changes on the biogeochemical cycles and Arctic marine ecosystems are still largely unknown. During cruises to the deep-sea observatory HAUSGARTEN in July 2007 and 2008, we investigated the biogeochemical recycling of organic matter in Arctic margin sediments by performing shipboard measurements of oxygen profiles, bacterial activities and biogenic sediment compounds (pigment, protein, organic carbon, and phospholipid contents). Additional in situ oxygen profiles were performed at two sites. This study aims at characterizing benthic mineralization activity along local bathymetric and latitudinal transects. The spatial coverage of this study is unique since it focuses on the transition from shelf to Deep Ocean, and from close to the ice edge to more open waters. Biogeochemical recycling across the continental margin showed a classical bathymetric pattern with overall low fluxes except for the deepest station located in the Molloy Hole (5500 m), a seafloor depression acting as an organic matter depot center. A gradient in benthic mineralization rates arises along the latitudinal transect with clearly higher values at the southern stations (average diffusive oxygen uptake of 0.49 ± 0.18 mmol O2 m-2 d-1) compared to the northern sites (0.22 ± 0.09 mmol O2 m-2 d-1). The benthic mineralization activity at the HAUSGARTEN observatory thus increases southward and appears to reflect the amount of organic matter reaching the seafloor rather than its lability. Although organic matter content and potential bacterial activity clearly follow this gradient, sediment pigments and phospholipids exhibit no increase with latitude whereas satellite images of surface ocean chlorophyll a indicate local seasonal patterns of primary production. Our results suggest that predicted increases in primary production in the Arctic Ocean could induce a larger export of more refractory organic matter due to the longer production season and the extension of the ice-free zone.