Influence of coastal Mediterranean rivers on the organic matter composition and reactivity of continental shelf sediments: The case of the Têt River (Gulf of Lions, France)

Abstract : River-dominated ocean margins (RiOMars) are areas of high productivity, rapid sediment deposition, and in- tense recycling. The Gulf of Lions, located in the North occidental Mediterranean Sea, is no exception to this general rule and is under the prevalent influence of the Rhône River. One particularity of this continental shelf is that it is also fed by several small coastal rivers whose inputs actively contribute to the coastal dynamic and export to the deep-sea. Our objective was to gauge the influence of coastal rivers on the quality and reactivity of the organic matter delivered to the continental shelf as these properties control two important functions of coastal areas: benthic productivity and carbon sequestration. We chose for this study, the Têt River, which is typical of coastal Mediterranean rivers with a torrential regime. Sediment cores were sampled five times over a one-year period on four stations located along the dominant trajectory of the Têt River plume. The biogeochemical characteristics of the surface sediments were analysed to highlight spatio-temporal trends in the sedimentary organic matter composition and to identify the major environmental factors controlling its reactivity. Nutrient and dissolved oxygen fluxes at the water-sediment interface were furthermore measured at two stations using ex-situ whole core incubations. Results from this study highlight the seasonal influence of riverine versus autochthonous productions on the quality of sedimentary organic matter in the vicinity of the river mouth. Farther on the mid shelf, a terrestrial imprint is still visible, but the temporal signal is blurred as a consequence of strong mixing during frequent episodes of resuspension/deposition. Organic matter is efficiently remineralised in this system with total oxygen uptake (TOU) rates comparable to those measured off the Rhône River. Finally, organic matter quality and reactivity are also constrained in this system by physical forcings, which promote remineralisation and advection of sediments.
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Audrey Pruski, Roselyne Buscail, François Bourrin, Gilles Vétion. Influence of coastal Mediterranean rivers on the organic matter composition and reactivity of continental shelf sediments: The case of the Têt River (Gulf of Lions, France). Continental Shelf Research, Elsevier, 2019, 181, pp.156-173. ⟨10.1016/j.csr.2019.05.009⟩. ⟨hal-02331280⟩

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