In situ tracer experiments investigated short-term sediment mixing processes at two Carolina continental margin sites (water depth = 850 m) characterized by different organic C fluxes, 234Th mixing coefficients (Db) and benthic assemblages. Phytoplankton, slope sediment, and sand-sized glass beads tagged with 210Pb, 113Sn, and 228Th, respectively, were placed via submersible at the sediment-water interface at both field sites (Site I off Cape Fear, and Site III off Cape Hatteras). Experimental plots were sampled at 0, 1.5 days, and 90 days after tracer emplacement to examine short-term, vertical transport. Both sites are initially dominated by nonlocal mixing. Transport to the bottom of the surface mixed layer at both sites occurs more rapidly than 234Th-based Db values predict; after 1.5 days, tagged particles were observed 5 cm below the sediment-water interface at Site I and 12 cm below at Site III. Impulse tracer profiles after 90 days at Site III exhibit primarily diffusive distributions, most likely due to a large number of random, nonlocal mixing events. The Db values determined from 90-day particle tagging experiments are comparable to those obtained from naturally occurring 234Th profiles (~100-day time scales) from nearby locations. The agreement between impulse tracer mixing coefficients and steady-state natural tracer mixing coefficients suggests that the diffusive analogue for bioturbation on monthly time scales is a realistic and useful approach. Tracer profiles from both sites exhibit some degree of particle selective mixing, but the preferential transport of the more labile carbon containing particles only occurred 30% of the time. Consequently, variations in the extent to which age-dependent mixing occurs in marine sediments may depend on factors such as faunal assemblage and organic carbon flux.
Fornes, W. L., D. J. DeMaster, L. A. Levin, and N. E. Blair. 1999. "Bioturbation and particle transport in Carolina slope sediments: A radiochemical approach." Journal of Marine Research 57, (2). https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/journal_of_marine_research/2320