Beckler JS, Kiriazisa N, Rabouille C, Stewart FJ, Taillefert M. 2016. Importance of microbial iron reduction in deep sediments of river-dominated continental margins. Marine Chemistry. in press
Abstract: Remineralization of organic carbon in deep-sea sediments is thought to proceed primarily via aerobic respiration and sulfate reduction because the supply of nitrate and metal oxides is not usually significant in deep-sea sediments. Dissimilatory metal reduction, on the other hand, may represent a dominant pathway in coastal and continental shelf sediments where delivery of terrigenous Fe(III) and Mn(IV/III) oxides is sufficiently high or mixing processes near the sediment-water interface recycle these minerals efficiently. Passive continental margin sediments receiving outflow from large rivers are well-known deposition centers for organic carbon, but may also be hotspots for metal-reducing microbial activity considering the simultaneous high deposition rates of unconsolidated metal oxides of terrigenous origin. However, only a few studies have examined the role of microbial metal reduction in Corg remineralization in these environments. To investigate carbon remineralization processes in these environments, shallow sediment cores across channels and levees in the Congo River fan (~5,000 m) and Louisiana slope (<1,800 m) were profiled for the main redox species involved in early diagenesis. Interestingly, metal reduction dominated carbon remineralization processes in the top ~20 cm of sediment subject to high deposition, while evidence for sulfate reduction was lacking. These findings suggest that dissimilatory Fe(III) reduction may be more significant than previously thought in continental slope sediments, which may have important implications on carbon cycling in marine environments. In addition, these findings may have geological implications in controlling atmospheric oxygen levels over geological time and the evolution of microbial life on Earth.