Insights on geochemical cycling of U, Re and Mo from seasonal sampling in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, USA

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta

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This study examined the removal of U, Mo, and Re from seawater by sedimentary processes at a shallow-water site with near-saturation bottom water O2 levels (240–380 μmol O2/L), very high organic matter oxidation rates (annually averaged rate is 880 μmol C/cm2/y), and shallow oxygen penetration depths (4 mm or less throughout the year). Under these conditions, U, Mo, and Re were removed rapidly to asymptotic pore water concentrations of 2.2–3.3 nmol/kg (U), 7–13 nmol/kg (Mo), and 11–14 pmol/kg (Re). The depth order in which the three metals were removed, determined by fitting a diffusion-reaction model to measured profiles, was Re < U < Mo. Model fits also suggest that the Mo profiles clearly showed the presence of a near-interface layer in which Mo was added to pore waters by remineralization of a solid phase. The importance of this solid phase source of pore water Mo increased from January to October as the organic matter oxidation rate increased, bottom water O2 decreased, and the O2 penetration depth decreased. Experiments with in situ benthic flux chambers generally showed fluxes of U and Mo into the sediments. However, when the overlying water O2 concentration in the chambers was allowed to drop to very low levels, Mn and Fe were released to the overlying water along with the simultaneous release of Mo and U. These experiments suggest that remineralization of Mn and/or Fe oxides may be a source of Mo and perhaps U to pore waters, and may complicate the accumulation of U and Mo in bioturbated sediments with high organic matter oxidation rates and shallow O2 penetration depths.

Benthic chamber experiments including the nonreactive solute tracer, Br, indicated that sediment irrigation was very important to solute exchange at the study site. The enhancement of sediment–seawater exchange due to irrigation was determined for the nonreactive tracer (Br), TCO2, NH4+, U and Mo. The comparisons between these solutes showed that reactions within and around the burrows were very important for modulating the Mo flux, but less important for U. The effect of these reactions on Mo exchange was highly variable, enhancing Mo (and, to a lesser extent, U) uptake at times of relatively modest irrigation, but inhibiting exchange when irrigation rates were faster. These results reinforce the observation that Mo can be released to and removed from pore waters via sedimentary reactions.

The removal rate of U and Mo from seawater by sedimentary reactions was found to agree with the rate of accumulation of authigenic U and Mo in the solid phase. The fluxes of U and Mo determined by in situ benthic flux chamber measurements were the largest that have been measured to date. These results confirm that removal of redox-sensitive metals from continental margin sediments underlying oxic bottom water is important, and suggest that continental margin sediments play a key role in the marine budgets of these metals.

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Insights on geochemical cycling of U, Re and Mo from seasonal sampling in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, USA
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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
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