Origin and fate of sedimentary organic matter in the northern Bay of Bengal during the last 18 ka

vera.meyer [ at ] awi.de


The Northern Bay of Bengal (NBoB) is a globally important region for deep-sea organic matter (OM) deposition due to massive fluvial discharge from the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (G-B-M) rivers and moderate to high surface productivity. Previous studies have focused on carbon burial in turbiditic sediments of the Bengal Fan. However, little is known about the storage of carbon in pelagic and hemipelagic sediments of the Bay of Bengal over millennial time scales. This study presents a comprehensive history of OM origin and fate as well as a quantification of carbon sediment storage in the Eastern Bengal Slope (EBS) during the last 18 ka. Bulk organic proxies (TOC, TIC, TN, δ13CTOC, δ15NTN) and content and composition of total hydrolysable amino acids (THAA) in a sediment core (SO188-342KL) from the EBS were analyzed. Three periods of high OM accumulation were identified: the Late Glacial (LG), the Bölling/Alleröd (B/A), and the Early Holocene Climatic Optimum (EHCO). Lower eustatic sea level before 15 ka BP allowed a closer connection between the EBS and the fluvial debouch, favoring high terrestrial OM input to the core site. This connection was progressively lost between 15 and 7 ka BP as sea level rose to its present height and terrestrial OM input decreased considerably. Export and preservation of marine OM was stimulated during periods of summer monsoon intensification (B/A and EHCO) as a consequence of higher surface productivity enhanced by cyclonic-eddy nutrient pumping and fluvial nutrient delivery into the photic zone. Changes in the THAA composition indicate that the marine plankton community structure shifted from calcareous-dominated before 13 ka BP to siliceous-dominated afterwards. They also indicate that the relative proportion of marine versus terrestrial OM deposited at site 342KL was primarily driven by relative sea level and enlarged during the Holocene. The ballasting effect of lithogenic particles during periods of high coastal proximity and/or enhanced fluvial discharge promoted the export and preservation of OM. The high organic carbon accumulation rates in the EBS during the LG (18–17 ka BP) were 5-fold higher than at present and comparable to those of glacial upwelling areas. Despite the differences in sediment and OM transport and storage among the Western and Eastern sectors of the NBoB, this region remains important for global carbon sequestration during sea level low-stands. In addition, the summer monsoon was a key promotor of terrestrial and marine OM export to the deep-ocean, highlighting its relevance as regulator of the global carbon budget.

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Primary Division
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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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Eprint ID
DOI 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.09.008

Cite as
Contreras-Rosales, L. A. , Schefuß, E. , Meyer, V. , Palamenghi, L. , Lückge, A. and Jennerjahn, T. (2016): Origin and fate of sedimentary organic matter in the northern Bay of Bengal during the last 18 ka , Global and Planetary Change, 146 , pp. 53-66 . doi: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2016.09.008



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