Attenuation of wind intensities exacerbates anoxic conditions leading to sulfur plume development off the coast of Peru

PLoS One. 2023 Aug 30;18(8):e0287914. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0287914. eCollection 2023.


The release of vast quantities of sulfide from the sediment into the water column, known as a sulfidic event, has detrimental consequences on fish catches, including downstream effects on other linked element cycles. Despite being frequent occurrences in marine upwelling regions, our understanding of the factors that moderate sulfidic event formation and termination are still rudimentary. Here, we examined the biogeochemical and hydrodynamic conditions that underpinned the formation/termination of one of the largest sulfur plumes to be reported in the Peruvian upwelling zone. Consistent with previous research, we find that the sulfur-rich plume arose during the austral summer when anoxic conditions (i.e., oxygen and nitrate depletion) prevailed in waters overlying the upper shelf. Furthermore, the shelf sediments were organically charged and characterized by low iron-bound sulfur concentrations, further enabling the diffusion of benthic-generated sulfide into the water column. While these biogeochemical conditions provided a predicate to sulfidic event formation, we highlight that attenuations in local wind intensity served as an event trigger. Namely, interruptions in local wind speed constrained upwelling intensity, causing increased stratification over the upper shelf. Moreover, disturbances in local wind patterns likely placed additional constraints on wind-driven mesoscale eddy propagation, with feedback effects on coastal elemental sulfur plume (ESP) formation. We suggest ESP development occurs as a result of a complex interaction of biogeochemistry with regional hydrodynamics.

PMID:37647254 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0287914


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