Distribution and origin of organic matter in the Baltic Sea sediments dated with 210Pb and 137Cs

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Abstract

Organic carbon deposited in marine sediments is an important part of the global carbon cycle. The knowledge concerning the role of shelf seas (including the Baltic Sea) in the carbon cycle has increased substantially, however organic carbon accumulation rates in the Baltic sediments still require clarification.

This paper describes methods used for assessing organic carbon and nitrogen accumulation rates in six sediment cores collected in the sediment accumulation areas in the Baltic Sea. Mass sediment accumulation rates were based on 210Pb method validated by 137Cs measurements. The organic carbon accumulation rates ranged from 18 to 75 g·C·m−2·yr−1. The C/N ratios and δ13C were used to access sedimentary organic matter provenance. The C/N ratios in the investigated cores vary in the range from 7.4 to 9.6, while δ13C ranged from −24.4‰ to −26.4‰. Results of the terrestrial organic matter contribution in the sedimentary organic matter were calculated basing on δ13C using the end member approach. Large proportion (41–73%) of the sedimentary organic carbon originates on land.

The obtained results indicate the Baltic Sea sediments as an important sink for organic carbon. Substantial fraction of the sedimentary load originates on land.

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