The West Spitsbergen Current, flowing northward through Fram Strait, causes a benthic nepheloid layer (BNL) on the western slope of the Yermak Plateau. This BNL is weaker on the eastern side of the Plateau and absent on the Greenland side of the Fram Strait where the East Greenland Current flows south. In this BNL we find throughout a depletion of 234Th relative to its parent 238U, and we use this to study the particle dynamics in the BNL. The export flux from the ice-covered surface ocean and from a young bloom found in the ice-free waters off NE Greenland is shown to be negligible, allowing us to explain the 234Th depletion by interaction with the sediment alone. The depletion, balanced by a similar excess in the surface layer of the sediment, implies the existence of a settling-resuspension loop with an average particle residence time of 1-2 months.The asymmetry with a stronger resuspension loop on the western (80-120 mg m-2 d-1) than on the eastern side of the Yermak Plateau (1-15 mg m-2 d-1) is reflected in the numbers of species and individuals of suspension feeders in box core samples, and in epifauna abundance as has been estimated from video observations. The suspension feeders thus contribute to deposit the particles that are advected from more productive ice-free regions. This explanation is in agreement with the east-west asymmetry in the input of organic material to the sediments of the Yermak Plateau, which has been concluded by Soltwedel et al. (2000) from the distribution of pigments, bacterial activity and meiofauna abundances, observed in a concurrent study at the same stations.On the West Spitsbergen shelf, a very intensive BNL was monitored over one month with a moored filtration system. A part of the sustained high suspended load may be advected over long distances.This study gives an example how the tracer 234Th can help to determine to what extent suspended particles are in continuous exchange with the seafloor, and where biological mediation and chemical modification can be expected.
AWI Organizations > Climate Sciences > Physical Oceanography of the Polar Seas
AWI Organizations > Climate Sciences > Climate Dynamics
AWI Organizations > Climate Sciences > Sea Ice Physics
AWI Organizations > Biosciences > Marine Animal Ecology