Articles | Volume 20
Science report
17 Dec 2015
Science report |  | 17 Dec 2015

IODP expedition 347: Baltic Sea basin paleoenvironment and biosphere

T. Andrén, B. Barker Jørgensen, C. Cotterill, S. Green, and the IODP expedition 347 scientific party

Abstract. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) expedition 347 cored sediments from different settings of the Baltic Sea covering the last glacial–interglacial cycle. The main aim was to study the geological development of the Baltic Sea in relation to the extreme climate variability of the region with changing ice cover and major shifts in temperature, salinity, and biological communities. Using the Greatship Manisha as a European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling (ECORD) mission-specific platform, we recovered 1.6 km of core from nine sites of which four were additionally cored for microbiology. The sites covered the gateway to the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, several sub-basins in the southern Baltic Sea, a deep basin in the central Baltic Sea, and a river estuary in the north.

The waxing and waning of the Scandinavian ice sheet has profoundly affected the Baltic Sea sediments. During the Weichselian, progressing glaciers reshaped the submarine landscape and displaced sedimentary deposits from earlier Quaternary time. As the glaciers retreated they left a complex pattern of till, sand, and lacustrine clay, which in the basins has since been covered by a thick deposit of Holocene, organic-rich clay. Due to the stratified water column of the brackish Baltic Sea and the recurrent and widespread anoxia, the deeper basins harbor laminated sediments that provide a unique opportunity for high-resolution chronological studies.

The Baltic Sea is a eutrophic intra-continental sea that is strongly impacted by terrestrial runoff and nutrient fluxes. The Holocene deposits are recorded today to be up to 50 m deep and geochemically affected by diagenetic alterations driven by organic matter degradation. Many of the cored sequences were highly supersaturated with respect to methane, which caused strong degassing upon core recovery. The depth distributions of conservative sea water ions still reflected the transition at the end of the last glaciation from fresh-water clays to Holocene brackish mud. High-resolution sampling and analyses of interstitial water chemistry revealed the intensive mineralization and zonation of the predominant biogeochemical processes. Quantification of microbial cells in the sediments yielded some of the highest cell densities yet recorded by scientific drilling.