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Ocean Science An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-132
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/os-2019-132
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 15 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 15 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal OS.

Biogeochemical processes accounting for the natural mercury variations in the Southern Ocean diatom ooze sediments

Sara Zaferani and Harald Biester Sara Zaferani and Harald Biester
  • Institut für Geoökologie AG Umweltgeochemie, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Braunschweig, 38106, Germany

Abstract. Understanding the marine biogeochemical cycle of mercury is crucial as consumption of mercury enriched marine fish is the most important pathway of mercury uptake by humans. However, due to the lack of long term marine records, the role of the oceans in the global mercury cycle is poorly understood and we do not have well documented data of natural mercury accumulations during changing environmental conditions, e.g. sea surface conditions in the ocean. To understand influence of different sea surface conditions (climate induced changes in ice coverage and biological production) on natural mercury accumulation, we used a continuous ~ 170 m Holocene biogenic sedimentary record from Adélie Basin, East Antarctica, which mainly consists of silica based skeletons of diatoms. We performed Principal Component Analysis and regression analysis on element concentrations and corresponding residual of element concentrations, respectively to investigate the link between sediment mercury accumulation, terrestrial inputs, and productivity. Preindustrial mercury accumulation in the remote pristine marine Antarctica showed extremely high accumulation rates (median: 556 µg m−2 yr−1) that displayed periodic-like variations. Our analysis shows that the variations in total mercury concentrations and accumulation rates are associated with biological production and related scavenging of available water phase mercury by rapidly sinking algae or algae derived organic matter after intense algae blooms. High accumulation rates of other studied elements further revealed that in regions of high primary productivity, settling of biogenic materials removes many other elements from ocean surface (through scavenging or biological uptake). In conclusion, the link between mercury cycling and primary production will need to be considered in future studies of the marine mercury cycle under future primary production enhancement through climatic, temperature, and nutrient availability changes.

Sara Zaferani and Harald Biester

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Sara Zaferani and Harald Biester

Sara Zaferani and Harald Biester

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Latest update: 19 Feb 2020
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Short summary
The role of oceans in the global mercury cycle is poorly understood. Investigation of sediments revealed that biological productivity and scavenging of water phase mercury by sinking algae or algae derived organic matter controlled preindustrial mercury accumulation in Adélie Basin. Our study suggests that the periodic-like variations in Hg concentrations and accumulation rates are likely associated with the cycle of polynya opening and closing and its related changes in biological productivity.
The role of oceans in the global mercury cycle is poorly understood. Investigation of sediments...
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