- Yu Yua, b,
- Jinming Songa, , ,
- Xuegang Lia,
- Liqin Duana, b
- a Key Laboratory of Marine Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Institute of Oceanography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Qingdao 266071, China
- b Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
- Received 14 September 2011. Accepted 4 May 2012. Available online 14 May 2012. Editorial handling by G. Filippelli.
Increasing eutrophication and seasonal anoxia in bottom water in the Changjiang Estuary and its adjacent waters has progressed in recent decades, caused by elevated anthropogenic N and P input. Sedimentary biogenic elements were investigated to determine whether the biogenic proxies could be used in paleoenvironmental studies in an energetic estuary, as well as to reconstruct the histories of environmental changes in the East China Sea (ECS). Two 210Pb-dated cores from the coastal and offshore waters were analyzed for organic C (TOC) and its stable isotope (δ13C), total N (TN), biogenic Si (BSi), total P (TP) and P species. In coastal sediment, the variations of P species, especially Fe-P, Al-P and detrital apatite P (Det-P), reflected the dry–wet oscillations in the Changjiang River for the past century, which has influenced the sediment grain size and terrestrial material input. Much lower BSi content (0.756%) at 16–22 cm likely recorded the pronounced decrease in silicate flux in the Changjiang River and its lower flow in the late 1980s. In offshore sediment, higher concentrations of TOC, TN, BSi, Ex-P, Fe-P and Lea-OP indicated higher primary productivity in response to the strong winter monsoons during the 1960s–1980s, and their 20-a fluctuations were in agreement with the decadal variations of the winter monsoon. Low contents and little variations of Al-P and Det-P indicated the slight influence of the terrestrial sediment input in offshore waters. The influence of human activities on the environment in recent decades has also been recorded in coastal sediment. Grain-size normalized concentrations of TOC, TN, TP, Ex-P, Fe-P and Lea-OP increased by 24%, 23%, 15%, 13% and 51% in the upper 16 cm of coastal sediment, indicating elevated P and N load and primary productivity since the 1990s. Elevated TN/TP ratios and decreased BSi/TOC recorded the changed nutrient structure and the decrease in the proportion of the diatom to phytoplankton community. However, the sediment record indicated that the eutrophication might actually have started from the end of the 20th century rather than the reported middle of 20th century. In contrast, biogenic elements in offshore sediment did not reflect disturbance by human activities. This study revealed that multi-nutrient proxies in sediment in the ECS could indicate natural environmental changes including runoff and the winter monsoon over the past century, as well as the influence of human activities in recent decades. Phosphorus species with distinct origins and biogeochemical behaviors could effectively reflect different aspects of past environmental conditions.