Evaluation of sediment trace metal records as paleoproductivity and paleoxygenation proxies in the upwelling center off Concepción, Chile (36°S)

TitleEvaluation of sediment trace metal records as paleoproductivity and paleoxygenation proxies in the upwelling center off Concepción, Chile (36°S)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsMuñoz, P, Dezileau, L, Lange, C, Cardenas, L, Sellanes, J, Salamanca, MA, Maldonado, A
JournalVariability of the coastal upwelling and coastal transition zones off central-southern Chile

This study analyzes the records of several trace metals sensitive to redox conditions in continental shelf sediments off Concepción, Chile (36°S). The continental margin off Concepción (36°S; 73°W) lies beneath an important upwelling center characterized by high primary production rates and, consequently, high fluxes of organic matter. In spring and summer, this material settles to the seafloor where it decays, producing periods of very low oxygen content in bottom waters (1 mL L−1). The goals of this study were to determine the input of trace metals to the sediment and to decipher how this information can be used to reveal variations in primary productivity or bottom oxygenation. Gravity cores collected at two stations – VG06-2 over the mid-shelf station (88 m water depth, upper boundary of the oxygen minimum zone) and VG06-3 over the outer shelf (120 m water depth, within the oxygen minimum zone) – were sampled for high resolution profiles (1 cm) of trace metals, biogenic opal, stable isotopes, and total organic carbon. The results suggest that the variability in the trace metal distribution on the continental shelf off Concepción is determined by redox conditions and the organic carbon flux to the bottom. Some sections of the sediment cores from the outer shelf showed appreciable authigenic enrichment of U, Cd, and Mo (EF: 5–10, 2–5, and 10–16 respectively) along with heavier values of δ15N, suggesting periods of suboxic conditions. During these periods, fluxes of organic material to the bottom were higher, as indicated by elevated TOC and opal contents. Alternating periods of higher and lower trace metal contents were not observed mid-shelf as they were on the outer shelf. Rather, the mid-shelf samples showed authigenic enrichment of U, Cd, and Mo (EF: 1–6, 4–5, and 10–20, respectively) throughout the core except in a 10-cm-thick gray layer. In general, authigenic enrichment of U, Mo, and Cd occurred at both sites, coincident with olive green layers in the cores. These layers were associated with periods of elevated primary productivity and suboxic conditions. Such periods did not seem to last as long as the oxygenated periods, which had higher inputs of refractive detrital material, coincident with the occurrence of distinct gray sediment layers.