Stable Silicon Isotopes Uncover a Mineralogical Control on the Benthic Silicon Cycle in the Arctic Barents Sea

James P.j. Ward, Katharine R. Hendry, Sandra Arndt, Johan C. Faust, Felipe S. Freitas, Sian F. Henley, Jeffrey W. Krause, Christian März, Hong Chin Ng, Rebecca A. Pickering, Allyson C. Tessin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Biogeochemical cycling of silicon (Si) in the Barents Sea is under considerable pressure from physical and chemical changes, including dramatic warming and sea ice retreat, together with a decline in dissolved silicic acid (DSi) concentrations of Atlantic inflow waters since 1990. Associated changes in the community composition of phytoplankton blooms will alter the material comprising the depositional flux, which will subsequently influence recycling processes at and within the seafloor. In this study we assess the predominant controls on the early diagenetic cycling of Si, a key nutrient in marine ecosystems, by combining stable isotopic analysis (Si) of pore water DSi and of operationally defined reactive pools of the solid phase. We show that low biogenic silica (BSi) contents (0.26-0.52 wt% or 92-185 mol g dry wt-1) drive correspondingly low asymptotic concentrations of pore water DSi of 100 M, relative to biosiliceous sediments (20 wt% BSi) wherein DSi can reach 900 M. While Barents Sea surface sediments appear almost devoid of BSi, we present evidence for the rapid recycling of bloom derived BSi that generates striking transient peaks in sediment pore water [DSi] of up to 300 M, which is a feature that is subject to future shifts in phytoplankton community compositions. Using a simple isotopic mass balance calculation we show that at two of three stations the pore water DSi pool at 0.5 cm below the seafloor (+0.96 to +1.36 ‰) is sourced from the mixing of core top waters (+1.46 to +1.69 ‰) with the dissolution of BSi (+0.82 to +1.50 ‰), supplemented with a lithogenic Si source (LSi) (-0.89 0.16‰). Further, our sediment pore water Si profiles uncover a coupling of the Si cycle with the redox cycling of metal oxides associated with isotopically light Si (-2.88 0.17‰). We suggest that a high LSi:BSi ratio and apparent metal oxide influence could lead to a degree of stability in the annual background benthic flux of DSi, despite current pressures on pelagic phytoplankton communities. Coupled with supporting isotopic evidence for the precipitation of authigenic clays in Barents Sea sediment cores, our observations have implications for the regional Si budget.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-230
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Early online date12 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


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