Alkalinity production in intertidal sands intensified by lugworm bioirrigation

Porewater profiles and sediment-water fluxes of oxygen, nutrients, pH, calcium, alkalinity, and sulfide were measured in intertidal sandflat sediments from the Oosterschelde mesotidal lagoon (The
Netherlands). The influence of bioturbation and bioirrigation by the deep-burrowing polychaete Arenicola marina on the rates and sources of benthic alkalinity generation was examined by comparing measurements in intact and defaunated sediment cores before and after the addition of A. marina in summer and fall 2011. Higher organic matter remineralization rates, shallower O2 penetration, and greater sediment-water solute fluxes were observed in summer, consistent with higher sediment community metabolic rates at a higher temperature. Lugworm activity stimulated porewater exchange (5.1 in summer, 1.9 in fall), organic matter remineralization (6.2 in summer, 1.9 in fall), aerobic respiration (2.4 in summer, 2.1 in fall), alkalinity release (4.7 in summer, 4.0 in fall), nutrient regeneration, and iron cycling. The effects of lugworm activity on net sediment-water fluxes were similar but more pronounced in summer than in fall. Alkalinity release in fall was entirely driven by metabolic carbonate dissolution, while this process explained between 22 and 69% of total alkalinity production in summer, indicating the importance of other processes in this season. By enhancing organic matter remineralization and the reoxidation of reduced metabolites by the sediment microbial community, lugworm activity stimulated the production of dissolved inorganic carbon and metabolic acidity, which in turn enhanced metabolic CaCO3 dissolution efficiency. In summer, evidence of microbial long distance electron transport (LDET) was observed in defaunated sediment. Thus, alkalinity production by net carbonate dissolution was likely supplemented by anaerobic respiration and LDET in summer.

Rao A. M. F., Malkin S. Y., Montserrat F. & Meysman F. J. R., 2014. Alkalinity production in intertidal sands intensified by lugworm bioirrigation. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 148:36-47. Article (subscription required).

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