This study addresses deep pore water chemistry in a permeable intertidal sand flat at the NW German coast. Sulphate, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), nutrients, and several terminal metabolic products were studied down to 5 m sediment depth. By extending the depth domain to several meters, insights into the functioning of deep sandy tidal flats were gained. Despite the dynamic sedimentological conditions in the study area, the general depth profiles obtained in the relatively young intertidal flat sediments of some metres depth are comparable to those determined in deep marine surface sediments. Besides diffusion and lithology which control pore water profiles in most marine surface sediments, biogeochemical processes are influenced by advection in the studied permeable intertidal flat sediments. This is supported by the model setup in which advection has to be implemented to reproduce pore water profiles. Water exchange at the sediment surface and in deeper sediment layers converts these permeable intertidal sediments into a “bio-reactor” where organic matter is recycled, and nutrients and DOC are released. At tidal flat margins, a hydraulic gradient is generated, which leads to water flow towards the creekbank. Deep nutrient-rich pore waters escaping at tidal flat margins during low tide presumably form a source of nutrients for the overlying water column in the study area. Significant correlations between the inorganic products of terminal metabolism (NH4 + and PO4 3−) and sulphate depletion suggest sulphate reduction to be the dominant pathway of anaerobic carbon remineralisation. Pore water concentrations of sulphate, ammonium, and phosphate were used to elucidate the composition of organic matter degraded in the sediment. Calculated C:N and C:P ratios were supported by model results.
EPIC Alfred Wegener Institut