Spatial and temporal variation of organic carbon in the northern South China Sea revealed by sedimentary records
Three sediment cores were taken from the Pearl River estuary and adjacent northern South China Sea (SCS). These sediment cores span the time interval 1900–2000 AD. The stratigraphy of the concentration, the ratio of total organic carbon (TOC) to total nitrogen (TN) and stable isotope (δ13Corg) of organic carbon (OC) from three high-resolution sediment cores were analyzed. The stratigraphic profiles of OC concentration, TOC/TN ratios and δ13Corg for the near past 100 yrs indicate that terrestrial organic matter decreases from 68.3% to 27.4% of the TOC in the Pearl River estuary, while Dapeng Bay (offshore east of Hong Kong) apparently had throughout little terrestrial organic matter input. The highest deposited OC occurs at the Humen River mouth and the OC concentrations are higher in the outer estuary than in the inner shelf of the northern SCS. The deposited OC at the River mouth increased with time, which could be caused by the high precipitation of land-derived organic matter and the high input of terrestrial organic matter, which is likely related to the rapid urbanization and industrial development in the Pearl River Delta since the 1970s. The OC concentrations did not exhibit an obvious increase with time in most areas of the Pear River estuary and adjacent inner shelf of the SCS, but the algal-derived OC concentration inferred from the δ13Corg values increased with time especially from 1980 to 2000 in the outer Pearl River estuary and Dapeng Bay. This increase is presumably caused by enhanced primary marine productivity supported by higher anthropogenic nutrient inputs.