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 (Reimers & Fogaren, 2021) reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research 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 meters. 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.
Supporting observations, which give environmental context for the benthic eddy covariance (EC) oxygen flux measurements, include data from instruments contained in OOI’s Endurance Array Benthic Experiment Package and Shelf Surface Moorings. Specifically, velocity profile time-series are drawn from records of a 300-kHz Velocity Profiler (Teledyne RDI-Workhorse Monitor), near-seabed water properties from CTD (SBE 16plusV2) and oxygen (Aanderaa-Optode 4831) sensors, winds from the surface buoy’s bulk meteorological package, and surface-wave data products from a directional wave sensor (AXYS Technologies) (see e.g., Fig 1 above).
Reimers, C. E., & Fogaren, K. E. (2021). Bottom boundary layer oxygen fluxes during winter on the Oregon shelf. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, 126, e2020JC016828. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020JC016828