Temporal influences of seasonal hypoxia on sediment biogeochemistry in coastal sediments



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Texas A&M University


Bottom water hypoxia and its influence on the environment have been topics of increasing concern for many coastal regions. This research addresses both spatial and temporal variability in sediment biogeochemistry at the southeastern region of Corpus Christi Bay, TX, where seasonal (summer) hypoxia occurs. Traditional techniques for determination of a variety of dissolved and solid components, benthic oxygen demand, and sulfate reduction rates were augmented by measurements using solid state microelectrodes to simultaneously determine concentrations of dissolved O2, Mn2+, Fe2+, and [sigma]H2S in multiple small - interval (1 mm) depth profiles of sediment microcosms. Oxygen concentrations in the overlying water were manipulated in the sediment microcosms and electrode depth profile measurements were made over ~ 500 hours of experimentation. Laboratory and field microelectrode results were in good agreement for both norm - oxic and anoxic time periods. Results indicated that iron (Fe2+) and sulfide ([sigma]H2S) were the redox reactive species in these sediments. During hypoxic conditions an upward migration of dissolved Fe2+and [sigma]H2S through the sediment column and, at times, into the overlying water was observed as the dissolved oxygen concentrations decreased. A corresponding decline in the vertical extent of these redox species occurred when the overlying water was re-oxidized. When both dissolved iron and sulfide coexisted, FeS minerals were formed in the sediment, preventing sulfide diffusion into the overlying water. However, after a long duration of hypoxia (> 200 hours) this buffering capacity was exceeded and both iron and sulfide penetrated into the overlying waters. Results indicated that iron may have a greater influence on hypoxia than sulfide because its concentration in the overlying waters during induced hypoxia was an order of magnitude greater than those of sulfide. Moreover, in the southeastern region of the Bay, where mixing was minimal and the water column was shallow, the sediments alone may have caused the onset of the hypoxic event in a relatively short time period (< 5.5 days). These results demonstrated that in shallow marine environments where seasonal hypoxia occurs, such as Corpus Christi Bay, the associated major changes that take place in the sediment biogeochemistry must be included in benthic - pelagic models for overlying water hypoxia.