During the Netherlands Indian Ocean Project (NIOP, 1992-1993) sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC) was measured on two continental margins in the Indian Ocean with different productivity: the productive upwelling region off Yemen-Somalia and the supposedly less productive Kenyan margin, which lacks upwelling. The two margins also differ in terms of river input (Kenya) and the more severe oxygen minimum in the Arabian Sea. Simultaneously with SCOC, distributions of benthic biomass and phytodetritus were studied. Our expectation was that benthic processes in the upwelling margin of the Arabian Sea would be relatively enhanced as a result of the higher productivity. On the Kenyan margin, SCOC (range 1-36 mmol m(-2) d(-1)) showed a clear decrease with increasing water depth, and little temporal variation was detected between June and December. Highest SCOC values of this study were recorded at 50 m depth off Kenya, with a maximum of 36 mmol m(-2) d(-1) in the northernmost part. On the margin off Yemen-Somalia, SCOC was on average lower and showed little downslope variation, 1.8-5.7 mmol m(-2) d(-1), notably during upwelling, when the zone between 70 and 1700 m was covered with low O-2 water (10-50 mu M). After cessation of upwelling, SCOC at 60 m depth off Yemen increased from 5.7 to 17.6 mmol m(-2) d(-1) concurrently with an increase of the near-bottom O-2 concentration (from 11 to 153 mu M), suggesting a close coupling between SCOC and O-2 concentration. This was demonstrated in shipboard cores in which the O-2 concentration in the overlying water was raised after the cores were first incubated under in situ conditions (17 mu M O-2). This induced an immediate and pronounced increase of SCOC: Conversely, at deeper stations permanently within the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ), SCOC showed little variation between monsoon periods. Hence, organic carbon degradation in sediments on a large part of the Yemen slope appears hampered by the oxygen deficiency of the overlying water. Macrofauna biomass and the pooled biomass of smaller organisms, estimated by the nucleic acid content of the sediment, had comparable ranges in the two areas in spite of more severe suboxic conditions in the Arabian Sea. At the Kenyan shelf, benthic fauna (macro-and meiofauna) largely followed the spatial pattern of SCOC, i.e. high values on the northern shelf-upper slope and a downslope decrease. On the Yemen-Somali margin the macrofauna distribution was more erratic. Nucleic acids displayed no clear downslope trend on either margin owing to depressed values in the OMZ, perhaps because of adverse effects of low O-2 on Small organisms (meiofauna and microbes). Phytodetritus distributions were different on the two margins. Whereas pigment levels decreased downslope along the Kenya margin, the upper slope off Yemen (800 m) had a distinct accumulation of mainly refractory carotenoid pigments, suggesting preservation under low O-2. Because the accumulations of C-org and pigments on the Yemen slope overlap only partly, we infer a selective deposition and preservation of labile particles on the upper slope, whereas refractory material undergoes further transport downslope. [KEYWORDS: Deep-sea sediments; organic-matter; oxygen-uptake; boundary-layer; arabian sea; carbon; degradation; phytoplankton; chlorophylls; carotenoids]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1293-1317
JournalDeep Sea Research Part II-Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number6-7
StatePublished - 1997

ID: 204981