Endurance Oregon Shelf Data Provides Insights into Bottom Boundary Layer Oxygen Fluxes

In February 2021 JGR Oceans article, Clare E. Reimers (Oregon State University) and Kristen Fogaren (Boston College) used data from the Endurance Array Oregon Shelf to advance understanding of how the benthic boundary layer on the Oregon Shelf in winter depends on surface-wave mixing and interactions with the seafloor.

The oceanic bottom boundary layer (BBL) is the portion of the water column close to the seafloor where water motions and properties are influenced significantly by the seabed. This study examines conditions in the BBL in winter on the Oregon shelf. Dynamic rates of sediment oxygen consumption (explicitly oxygen fluxes) are derived from high-frequency, near-seafloor measurements made at water depths of 30 and 80 m. The strong back-and-forth motions of waves, which in winter form sand ripples, pump oxygen into surface sediments, and contribute to the generation of turbulence in the BBL, were found to have primed the seabed for higher oxygen uptake rates than observed previously, in summer. Since oxygen is used primarily in biological reactions that also consume organic matter, the winter rates of oxygen utilization indicate that sources of organic matter are retained in, or introduced to, the BBL throughout the year. These findings counter former descriptions of this ecosystem as one where organic matter is largely transported off the shelf during winter. This new understanding highlights the importance of adding variable rates of local seafloor oxygen consumption and organic carbon retention, with circulation and stratification conditions, into model predictions of the seasonal cycle of oxygen.

The rest of the article can be accessed here.