The Speciation and Mobility of Mn and Fe in Estuarine Sediments

  • Véronique E. OldhamEmail author
  • Matthew G. Siebecker
  • Matthew R. Jones
  • Alfonso Mucci
  • Bradley M. Tebo
  • George W. LutherIII


Dissolved and solid-phase speciation of Mn and Fe was measured in the porewaters of sediments recovered from three sites in the Greater St. Lawrence Estuary: the Saguenay Fjord, the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (LSLE) and the Gulf of St. Lawrence (GSL). At all sites and most depths, metal organic ligand complexes (Mn(III)–L and Fe(III)–L) dominated the sedimentary porewater speciation, making up to 100% of the total dissolved Mn or Fe. We propose that these complexes play a previously underestimated role in maintaining oxidized soluble metal species in sedimentary systems and in stabilizing organic matter in the form of soluble metal–organic complexes. In the fjord porewaters, strong (log KCOND > 13.2) and weak (log KCOND < 13.2) Mn(III)–L complexes were detected, whereas only weak Mn(III)–L complexes were detected at the pelagic and hemipelagic sites of the GSL and LSLE, respectively. At the fjord site, Mn(III)–L complexes were kinetically stabilized against reduction by Fe(II), even when Fe(II) concentrations were as high as 57 μM. Only dissolved Mn(II) was released from the sediments to overlying waters, suggesting that Mn(III) may be preferentially oxidized by sedimentary microbes at or near the sediment–water interface. We calculated the dissolved Mn(II) fluxes from the sediments to the overlying waters to be 0.24 µmol cm−2 year−1 at the pelagic site (GSL), 11 µmol cm−2 year−1 at the hemipelagic site (LSLE) and 2.0 µmol cm−2 year−1 in the fjord. The higher benthic flux in the LSLE reflects the lower oxygen concentrations (dO2) of the bottom waters and sediments at this site, which favor the reductive dissolution of Mn oxides as well as the decrease in the oxidation rate of dissolved Mn(II) diffusing through the oxic layer of the sediment and its release to the overlying water.


Manganese Iron Sediment Porewaters St. Lawrence Estuary Oxygen Flux Diagenesis Redox chemistry Organic complexation Mn(III)–L Fe(III)–L 



This work was funded by grants from the Chemical Oceanography program of the National Science Foundation (OCE-1558738 and OCE-1155385 to GWL; OCE-1558692 and OCE-1154307 to BMT) and the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) through Discovery and Ship-time grants to AM. Véronique Oldham thanks the University of Delaware for receipt of a Marian R. Okie Fellowship and a University of Delaware Graduate Fellowship. Thanks also to Gilles Desmeules as well as the captain and crew of the R/V Coriolis II who made sampling for this research possible. Finally, we thank the journal reviewers, including D. Burdige, and the Associate Editor, B. Deflandre for their incisive comments and recommendations.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Marine Science and PolicyUniversity of DelawareLewesUSA
  2. 2.Division of Environmental and Biomolecular Systems, Institute of Environmental HealthOregon Health and Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  3. 3.GEOTOP and Department of Earth and Planetary SciencesMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  4. 4.Department of Marine Chemistry and GeochemistryWoods Hole Oceanographic InstituteWoods HoleUSA
  5. 5.Division of Environmental Science and EngineeringPOSTECH – Pohang University of Science and TechnologyPohang-siKorea
  6. 6.Department of Plant and Soil ScienceTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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