Reconstruction of Redox Conditions and Productivity in Coastal Waters of the Bothnian Sea during the Holocene
Abstract:Hypoxia is a growing problem in coastal waters worldwide, and is a well-known cause of benthic mortality. The semi-enclosed Baltic Sea is currently the world’s largest human-induced dead zone. During the early Holocene, it experienced several periods of natural hypoxia following the intrusion of seawater into the previous freshwater lake. Recent studies suggest that at that time, the hypoxia expanded north to include the deep basin of the Bothnian Sea.
In this study, we assess whether the coastal zone of the Bothnian Sea was also hypoxic during the early Holocene. We analysed a unique sediment record (0 – 30 mbsf) from the Ångermanälven estuary, which was retrieved during the International Ocean Discovery Programme (IODP) Baltic Sea Paleoenvironment Expedition 347 in 2013. Using geochemical proxies and foraminifera abundances, we reconstruct the changes in redox conditions, salinity and productivity in the estuary. Our preliminary results suggest that bottom waters in this coastal basin became anoxic upon the intrusion of brackish seawater in the early Holocene and that the productivity was elevated. The presence of benthic foraminifera in this estuary during the mid-Holocene suggests more saline conditions in the Bothnian Sea than today. Due to isostatic uplift, the estuary likely gradually became more isolated from the Bothnian Sea, which itself became more isolated from the Baltic Sea. Both factors likely explain the subsequent re-oxygenation of bottom waters and gradual refreshening of the estuary as recorded in the sediments. Interestingly, the upper meters of sediment are enriched in minerals that contain iron, phosphorus and manganese. We postulate that the refreshening of the estuary triggered the formation of these minerals, thereby increasing the phosphorus retention in these sediments and further reducing primary productivity. This enhanced retention linked to refreshening may contribute to the current oligotrophic conditions in the Bothnian Sea.