On the separation between inorganic and organic fractions of suspended matter in a marine coastal environment


A central aspect of coastal biogeochemistry is to determine how nutrients, lithogenic and organic matter are distributed and transformed within coastal and estuarine environments. Analyses of the spatio-temporal changes of total suspended matter (TSM) concentration indicate strong and variable linkages between intertidal fringes and pelagic regions. In particular, knowledge about the organic fraction of TSM provides insight to how biogenic and lithogenic particulate matter are distributed in suspension. In our study we take advantage of a set of over 3000 in situ Loss on Ignition (LoI) data from the Southern North Sea that represent fractions of particulate organic matter (POM) relative to TSM (LoI POM:TSM). We introduce a parameterization (POM-TSM model) that distinguishes between two POM fractions incorporated in TSM. One fraction is described in association with mineral particles. The other represents a seasonally varying fresh pool of POM. The performance of the POM-TSM model is tested against data derived from MERIS/ENVISAT-TSM products of the German Bight. Our analysis of remote sensing data exhibits specific qualitative features of TSM that can be attributed to distinct coastal zones. Most interestingly, a transition zone between the Wadden Sea and seasonally stratified regions of the Southern North Sea is identified where mineral associated POM appears in concentrations comparable to those of freshly produced POM. We will discuss how this transition is indicative for a zone of effective particle interaction and sedimentation.The dimension of this transition zone varies between seasons and with location. Our proposed POM-TSM model is generic and can be calibrated against in situ data of other coastal regions.
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