The transformation and fate of sub-Arctic microphytobenthos carbon revealed through 13C-labeling

Joanne M. Oakes, Søren Rysgaard, Ronnie N. Glud, Bradley D. Eyre

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Microphytobenthos (MPB) at higher latitudes has been poorly studied. This study used pulse-chase 13C-labeling to investigate the production, processing, and fate of MPB-derived carbon (MPB-C) in sub-Arctic intertidal sediments over 31 d. Gross primary production (2.1 mmol C m−2 h−1 ± 0.4 mmol C m−2 h−1) was comparable to that reported for temperate regions. Some of the 13C fixed by sub-Arctic MPB was rapidly (within 0.5 d) transferred to deeper sediments (below 2 cm), but most was retained within surface sediments (>70.2% of the 13C present at any time during the study). At any time, MPB accounted for ≥ 49.8% of this 13C. The 13C content of sediment organic carbon declined over time, but > 31% of the 13C fixed within the first tidal cycle remained after 31 d, suggesting that sub-Arctic MPB may contribute to coastal carbon retention during the productive season. Over 21 d, 10.6% of the fixed 13C was removed via DIC fluxes and 0.3% via DOC fluxes from inundated sediment, and 0.6% as CO2 from exposed sediment. The greatest loss of 13C (38.2%) was via unmeasured pathways, including resuspension and/or removal by mobile consumers. The rates of MPB-C production and the relative importance of the pathways for MPB-C loss were similar to that observed for comparable lower latitude sediments, demonstrating that MPB at higher latitudes are not necessarily distinct from MPB at lower latitudes and probably play a similarly important role in ecosystem functioning. Apparently, local environmental conditions are more important than climate differences for determining the processing and fate of MPB-C.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2296-2308
Number of pages13
JournalLimnology and Oceanography
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • benthic microalgae, organic-matter, in-situ, nitrogen incorporation, intertidal sediments, microbial community, coastal sediments, sandy sediments, tracing carbon, salt-marsh


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