On benthic fluxes of phosphorus in the Baltic Sea proper – drivers and estimates

Sammanfattning: This Thesis focuses on the exchange of phosphorus (P) across the sediment–water interface in the Baltic Sea proper, with particular attention to the influence of bioturbating macrofauna and benthic redox conditions. Benthic P fluxes have major influence on P availability in the water column, which in turn regulates growth conditions for dinitrogen fixating cyanobacteria in the Baltic proper. Presently, a very large area of bottom sediment is overlain by oxygen depleted bottom water and is therefore devoid of aerobic organisms.In paper I, anoxic sediment from the Western Gotland Basin was oxygenated and exposed to bioturbation by three macrofauna species in a laboratory experiment. The experimental design allowed for detailed studies of how bioturbating animals influence the P fluxes on a species-specific level. All species (Monoporeia affinis, Mysis mixta, and Macoma balthica) mobilised dissolved organic P from the bottom sediment to the supernatant water. Also, particulate P was released by the two former species. None of these P fractions showed any mobility in control sections of the aquarium system. These animal-dependent P fluxes are a previously largely overlooked but potentially significant source of bioavailable P in coastal marine areas, such as the Baltic Sea.In paper II, we estimate a contemporary reflux of 146 kton dissolved inorganic P (DIP) from bottom sediments in the Baltic proper. This estimate is based on data from a large number of in situ benthic flux measurements using benthic chamber landers along a depth gradient in the Eastern Gotland Basin. DIP effluxes increased with increasing water depth, and decreasing bottom water oxygen concentrations. Bottom water anoxia was identified as a major driver for the mobilisation of DIP from bottom sediments. During such conditions, the DIP efflux was well correlated to carbon oxidation rate, while on oxic bottoms DIP fluxes were low irrespectively of the carbon oxidation rate. Our data support the hypothesis of a positive feedback loop of self-amplifying eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. Thus, both nutrient emission cuts and active mitigation actions to strengthen sedimentary P sinks are warranted for effective remediation of eutrophication in the Baltic Sea.