Sedimentary nutrient supply in productive hotspots off the West Antarctic Peninsula revealed by silicon isotopes

Lucie Cassarino*, Katharine R Hendry, Sian F Henley, Ellen MacDonald, Sandra Arndt, Felipe S Freitas, Jennifer Pike, Yvonne L Firing

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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In this study we evaluate the benthic fluxes of silicic acid along the West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP). Silicic acid (DSi) is one of the macronutrients essential in fuelling biological hotspots of diatom-dominated primary production along the WAP. Here we measure the concentration and stable silicon isotopic composition of DSi in porewater profiles, biogenic silica content (BSi) and diatom abundance from sediment cores collected along the WAP. We couple these measurements with reaction-transport modelling, to assess the DSi flux and the processes that release this key nutrient from the sediment into the overlying waters. Our results show that the benthic DSi flux is dominated by the diffusive flux, which is estimated to be equivalent to 26.7 ± 2.7 Gmol yr−1 for the WAP continental shelf. The DSi isotope profiles reveal the important impact of sedimentary processes on porewater DSi and suggest that biogenic silica dissolution is the main source of DSi in porewaters and consequently of the benthic fluxes. Our integrated data model assessment highlights the impact of surface productivity on sedimentary processes and the dynamic environment of core-top sediments where dissolution and reverse weathering reactions control DSi exchanges.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019GB006486
Number of pages17
JournalGlobal Biogeochemical Cycles
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2020


  • silicon cycle
  • benthic flux
  • sediment cycling
  • continental shelf


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