210Pb balance and implications for particle transport on the continental shelf, U.S. Middle Atlantic Bight Academic Article uri icon


  • Supply of (210)pb to the continental shelf off the northeastern United States is dominated by the deposition from the atmosphere, the rate of which is reliably known from previously published work. Excess (210)pb inventories in the shelf sediments show accumulations that are nearly in balance with the supply, even in areas of relict sands where it is believed that no net accumulation of sediment presently occurs. The (210)pb distributions in shelf and slope water indicate that the two-way fluid exchange at the shelf-slope front and the net transport in the alongshore Row make comparatively small contributions to the shelf (210)pb budget: The near balance between supply and decay of (210)pb on the shelf implies a limit to the particle export flux. It is concluded that the export of particulate organic carbon does not exceed 60 g m(-2) y(-1) (similar to 25% of primary production) and is probably lower. The hypothesis is advanced that fine particulate matter introduced to the continental shelf is detained in its transit of the shelf because of bioturbational trapping in the sediment due to benthic animals. Distributions of (210)pb in suspended particulate matter and in the fine fraction of shelf sediments suggest that the average fine particle must undergo several cycles of deposition-bioturbation-resuspension-redeposition and requires a number of decades for its transit and ultimate export from the shelf. Thus, only the most refractory organic matter is likely to be exported.

publication date

  • January 1994