Rates and regulation of microbial iron reduction in sediments of the Baltic-North Sea transition

Marlene Mark Jensen, Bo Thamdrup, Søren Rysgaard, Marianne Holmer, Henrik Fossing

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The rates and pathways of anaerobic carbon mineralization processes were investigated at seven stations, ranging from 10 to 56 m water depth, in the Kattegat and Belt Sea, Denmark. Organic carbon mineralization coupled to microbial Mn and Fe reduction was quantified using anaerobic sediment incubation at two stations that were widely separated geographically within the study area. Fe reduction accounted for 75% of the anaerobic carbon oxidation at the station in the northern Kattegat, which is the highest percentage so far reported from subtidal marine sediment. By contrast, sulfate reduction was the dominant anaerobic respiration pathway (95%) at the station in the Great Belt. Dominance of Fe reduction was related to a relatively high sediment Fe content in combination with active reworking of the sediment by infauna. The relative contribution of Fe reduction to anaerobic carbon oxidation at both stations correlated with the concentration of poorly crystalline Fe(III), confirming that the concentration of poorly crystalline Fe(III) exerts a strong control on rates of Fe reduction in marine sediments. The dependence of microbial Fe reduction on concentrations of poorly crystalline Fe(III) was used to quantify the importance of Fe reduction at sites where anaerobic incubations were not applied. This study showed that Fe reduction is an important process in anaerobic carbon oxidation in a wider area of the seafloor in the northern and eastern Kattegat (contribution 60 – 75%). By contrast, Fe reduction is of little significance (6 – 25%) in the more coarse-grained sediments of the shallower western and southern Kattegat, where a low Fe content was an important limiting factor, and in fine-grained sediments of the Belt Sea (4 – 28%), where seasonal oxygen depletion limits the intensity of bioturbation and thereby the availability of Fe(III). A large fraction of the total deposition of organic matter in the Kattegat and Belt Sea occurs in the northern Kattegat, and we estimate 33% of benthic carbon oxidation in the whole area is conveyed by Fe reduction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-317
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

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