Bulk heavy metal (Fe, Mn, Co, Cr, Ni, Cu, Zn and Pb) distributions and their chemical partitioning, together with TOC and carbonate data, were studied in oxic to anoxic surface sediments (0-2 cm) obtained at 18 stations throughout the Black Sea. TOC and carbonate contents, and available hydrographic data, indicate biogenic organic matter produced in shallower waters is transported and buried in the deeper waters of the Black Sea. Bulk metal concentrations measured in the sediments can be related to their geochemical cycles and the geology of the surrounding Black Sea region. Somewhat high Cr and Ni contents in the sediments are interpreted to reflect, in part, the weathering of basic-ultrabasic rocks on the Turkish mainland. Maximum carbonate-free levels of Mn (4347 ppm), Ni (355 ppm) and Co (64 ppm) obtained for sediment from the shallow-water station (102 m) probably result from redox cycling at the so-called 'Mn pump zone' where scavenging-precipitation processes of Mn prevail. Chemical partitioning of the heavy metals revealed that Cu, Cr and Fe seem to be significantly bound to the detrital phases whereas carbonate phases tend to hold considerable amounts of Mn and Pb. The sequential extraction procedures used in this study also show that the metals Fe, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn and Pb associated with the 'oxidizable phases' are in far greater concentrations than the occurrences of these metals with detrital and carbonate phases. These results are in good agreement with the recent studies on suspended matter and thermodynamic calculations which have revealed that organic compounds and sulfides are the major metal carriers in the anoxic Black Sea basin, whereas Fe-Mn oxyhydroxides can also be important phases of other metals, especially at oxic sites. This study shows that, if used with a suitable combination of the various sequential extraction techniques, metal partitioning can provide important information on the varying geological sources and modes of occurrence and distribution of heavy metals in sediments, as well as, on the physical and chemical conditions prevailing in an anoxic marine environment. Copyright (C) 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.