Benthic biogeochemistry: state of the art technologies and guidelines for the future of in situ survey

felix.janssen [ at ]


Sediment and water can potentially be altered, chemically, physically and biologically as they are sampled at the seafloor, brought to the surface, processed and analysed. As a result, in situ observations of relatively undisturbed systems have become the goal of a growing body of scientists. Our understanding of sediment biogeochemistry and exchange fluxes was revolutionized by the introduction of benthic chambers and in situ micro-electrode profilers that allow for the direct measurement of chemical fluxes between sediment and water at the sea floor and for porewater composition. Since then, rapid progress in the technology of in situ sensors and benthic chambers (such as the introduction of gel probes, voltammetric electrodes or one- and two-dimensional optodes) have yielded major breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of benthic biogeochemistry. This paper is a synthesis of discussions held during the workshop on sediment biogeochemistry at the “Benthic Dynamics: in situ surveillance of the sediment–water interface” international conference (Aberdeen, UK—March 25–29, 2002). We present a review of existing in situ technologies for the study of benthic biogeochemistry dynamics and related scientific applications. Limitations and possible improvement (e.g., technology coupling) of these technologies and future development of new sensors are discussed. There are countless important scientific and technical issues that lend themselves to investigation using in situ benthic biogeochemical assessment. While the increasing availability of these tools will lead research in yet unanticipated directions, a few emerging issues include greater insight into the controls on organic matter (OM) mineralization, better models for the understanding of benthic fluxes to reconcile microelectrode and larger-scale chamber measurements, insight into the impacts of redox changes on trace metal behavior, new insights into geochemical reaction pathways in surface sediments, and a better understanding of contaminant fate in nearshore sediments.

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Peer revision
ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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DOI 10.1016/S0022-0981(02)00517-8

Cite as
Viollier, E. , Rabouille, C. , Apitz, S. , Breuer, E. , Chaillou, G. , Dedieu, K. , Furukawa, Y. , Grenz, C. , Hall, P. , Janssen, F. , Morford, J. , Poggiale, J. C. , Roberts, S. , Shimmield, T. , Taillefert, M. , Tengberg, A. , Wenzhöfer, F. and Witte, U. (2003): Benthic biogeochemistry: state of the art technologies and guidelines for the future of in situ survey , Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 285-28 , pp. 5-31 . doi: 10.1016/S0022-0981(02)00517-8



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