Composition and diagenesis of neutral carbohydrates in sediments of the Baltic-North Sea transition

Marlene Mark Jensen, Marianne Holmer, Bo Thamdrup

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The distribution and composition of neutral carbohydrates in the solid phase and porewater, and their role in carbon cycling were investigated in contrasting marine sediments of the Baltic-North Sea region. Depth-invariant profiles of particulate carbohydrates (PCHO) and low PCHO yields (PCHO/organic carbon) indicated that a small inert carbohydrate fraction deposits on the sediment at the deeper stations in the northern Kattegat and Skagerrak compared to the shallower stations further South. This was supported by long-term sediment incubations, in which the PCHO concentrations remained unchanged during 480 days, revealing that neutral carbohydrates play a minor role in carbon mineralization at the deeper sites. In contrast, the reactivity of PCHO was high (first-order rate constant of 3.2 yr1) at one shallow site in the Belt Sea. Monosaccharide spectra were uniform with sediment depth and between sites with the exception of the shallowest site in the middle of Kattegat, where glucose dominated the polymers at the surface. This was likely due to benthic diatoms. Addition of fresh algae to surface sediment from the deeper sites resulted in a preferential mineralization of particulate glucose polymers. The addition of algae also resulted in an initial pulse of glucose in the porewater pools of total hydrolyzable carbohydrates (THCHO), indicating a faster hydrolysis of glucose polymers in the particulate phase than the subsequent hydrolysis and bacterial consumption of oligo- and polymers of glucose in the porewater. This study shows that some carbohydrates such as glucose polymers are selectively utilized by heterotrophic bacteria during the settling of organic particles through the water column, and a relatively inert fraction arrives to the sediments where much of it escapes mineralization and becomes permanently buried. In shallow coastal environments, where the degradation in the water column is less extensive and where benthic algae may represent a local carbohydrate source, neutral carbohydrates appear to be more important in organic matter mineralization.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number16
Pages (from-to)4085-4099
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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