Solute transfer across the sediment surface of a eutrophic lake: I. Porewater profiles from dialysis samplers

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Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Porewater profiles often are used to identify and quantify important biogeochemical processes occurring in lake sediments. In this study, multiple porewater profiles were obtained from two eutrophic Swiss lakes using porewater equilibrators (peepers) in order to examine spatial and seasonal trends in biogeochemical processes. Variability in profile shapes and concentrations was small on spatial scales of a few meters, but the uncertainty in calculated diffusive fluxes across the sediment surface was, on average, 35%. Focusing of Fe and Mn oxides toward the lake center resulted in systematic increases in porewater concentrations and diffusive fluxes of Fe2+ and Mn2+ with increasing water depth: these fluxes are postulated to be regulated by the pH-dependent dissolution of reduced-metal phases. Despite higher concentrations of inorganic carbon, NH4/+, Si and P in pelagic compared to littoral sites, diffusive fluxes of these substances across the sediment surface increased only slightly or not at all with increasing water depth. Porewater profiles did reveal temporal changes in Fe2+, Mn2+, Ca2+, and Mg2+ that were an indirect result of the large, seasonal changes in seston deposition, but no clear seasonal variations were found in diffusive fluxes of nutrients across the sediment surface. The intense mineralization occurring at the sediment surface was not reflected in the porewater profiles nor in the calculated diffusive fluxes. Calculated diffusive fluxes across the sediment surface resulted from decomposition occurring primarily in the top 5-7 cm of sediment. Diffusive fluxes from this subsurface mineralization were equal to the solute release from mineralization occurring at the sediment-water interface. Buried organic matter acts as a memory of previous lake conditons; it will require at least a decade before reductions in nutrient inputs to lakes fully reduce the diffusive fluxes into the lake from the buried reservoir of organic matter.

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Aquatic Sciences