Bulk and Export Production Fluxes in the Gulf of Aqaba, Northern Red Sea

Adi Torfstein*, Stephanie S. Kienast, Barak Yarden, Asaph Rivlin, Shuki Isaacs, Yonathan Shaked

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Marine particulate fluxes were studied between 2014 and 2017 in the oligotrophic Gulf of Aqaba (GOA), northern Red Sea. A bottom tethered mooring mounted with 5 sediment trap stations (KC Denmark Inc.) at approximately equal depth intervals between 120 and 570 m (water depth of â 610 m) was rotated monthly. The bulk particulate fluxes were determined for the entire period, with organic C and N, CaCO3, and lithogenic fluxes determined for the first two and half years of the deployment. The results are evaluated in the context of monthly resolved records of seawater temperature, chlorophyll-A concentrations, and macro-nutrient concentrations, as well as hourly to weekly dust load records and rare fluvial events. The results are further compared to core-Tops collected from varying water depths and are combined to produce a basin source-To-sink mass balance of particulate fluxes. The GOA undergoes strong seasonal changes expressed by surface water temperatures and water column stratification and mixing, which control the vertical and temporal distribution of nutrients and primary and export production. Accordingly, the seasonal variability in particulate fluxes varies over a wide range, typically displaying peak bulk fluxes in bottom waters during the winter (â 5-7 g m-2 d-1) and minimum values in shallow waters during summer (<0.5 g m-2 d-1). Organic C and N fluxes are the highest in shallow waters and display strong vertical attenuation that varies seasonally, a-priori reflecting enhanced remineralization in the warm shallow waters during summer. In contrast, particulate organic carbon and nitrogen fluxes are enhanced in bottom waters during winter, due to the combined effect of the increased presence of mineral ballasts and vertical water column mixing. The quantification of particulate fluxes in the GOA suggests that, while most of the bulk particulates are introduced into the basin via episodic fluvial events, with direct dust inputs contributing approximately an order of magnitude less material, the internal cycling of terrigenous material is complex, with a lag between the initial deposition of influxing material along shallow margins and seasonal reworking and transport of sediments to the deep seafloor. Nevertheless, the fluxes of terrigenous and organic particulates are largely independent of each other, with export production fluxes driven by water column mixing and nutrient availability in the photic zone. In addition to being the first quantitative report of bulk and export production fluxes in the region, our results provide an improved understanding of the interplay between export production and terrigenous fluxes as well as an interpretation of the paleo-record in the GOA and in comparable environments. On a wider scale, the findings reported here relate to the role of dust deposition and hemipelagic sedimentation in the oceans and their impact on export production and particle cycling in coastal regions. Combined, these findings illuminate the factors impacting marine habitats and ecosystems, the cycling and sequestration of trace elements and anthropogenic components in the oceans, and facilitate better understanding of the interplay between solid and dissolved phases in the oceans and reconstructing past oceanographic and climatic conditions from marine sediment cores.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1461-1479
Number of pages19
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Issue number8
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 American Chemical Society.


  • Red Sea
  • ballast effects
  • export production
  • remineralization
  • sediment traps


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