Spatial Variability of Organic Matter and Phosphorus Cycling in Rhône River Prodelta Sediments (NW Mediterranean Sea, France): a Model-Data Approach

Abstract

The Mediterranean Sea (MS) is a large oligotrophic sea whose productivity is sensitive to riverine nutrient inputs. More specifically, phosphorus (P) river supply is crucial for the MS, with an important role of the estuarine/deltaic filter especially for the storage and recycling in sediments. A benthic dataset from the Rhône River prodelta was used to derive P budgets, by means of an early diagenetic model including the benthic P cycle. The model was fitted to pore water profiles of oxygen, nitrate, sulfate, dissolved inorganic carbon, ammonium, oxygen demand units, dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP) and solid data (organic carbon (OC), Fe-bound P, Ca-bound P and organic P). Results indicated that the intensity of biogeochemical processes occurring below the sediment–water interface decreased from the river mouth to the adjacent continental shelf with decreasing integrated rates of OC mineralization (160–10 mmol m−2 day−1). The organic P mineralization was intense near the river mouth and decreased offshore (1196–80 μmol m−2 day−1). Its contribution to DIP release was large (> 90%). Fe-bound P had a key role in transferring P to deeper layers. These deltaic sediments played an important role as a source of regenerated DIP. A significant part of DIP was recycled to the overlying waters (72–94%), representing 25% of the riverine DIP discharge. Simultaneously, 6–28% of DIP produced in sediments was buried as Ca-bound P. Overall, this study highlighted the importance of deltaic sediments as an additional source of DIP to the coastal sea, and a minor but permanent sink of phosphorus as solid P burial.

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Data Availability

The entire dataset is provided on the SeaNoe database (https://doi.org/10.17882/73204).

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the captain and the crew members of N.O. Tethys II (INSU/CNRS) for their assistance during sampling at sea. We are grateful to Laurie Brethous and Anouk Villedieu who provided help at sea during sampling and in the laboratory for measurements. Florian Caradec and Emilie Rabiller are acknowledged for their help during P speciation measurements at IFREMER’s laboratory. We thank the two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the quality of this manuscript. This is LSCE publication number 7409.

Funding

This work was supported by the INSU/EC2CO-MissRhoDia project, the French State program “Investissement d’avenir” run by the National Research Agency (AMORAD project ANR-11-RSNR-0002) and the CEDoc cooperation research project between Morocco and France.

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Communicated by Lijun Hou

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Ait Ballagh, F.E., Rabouille, C., Andrieux-Loyer, F. et al. Spatial Variability of Organic Matter and Phosphorus Cycling in Rhône River Prodelta Sediments (NW Mediterranean Sea, France): a Model-Data Approach. Estuaries and Coasts (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-020-00889-9

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Keywords

  • Organic matter
  • Phosphorus
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Rhône River prodelta
  • Sediment
  • Modelling