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Biotic interactions influence sediment erodibility on wave-exposed sandflats
Harris, R.J.; Pilditch, C.A.; Hewitt, J.E.; Lohrer, A.M.; Van Colen, C.; Townsend, M.; Thrush, S.F. (2015). Biotic interactions influence sediment erodibility on wave-exposed sandflats. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 523: 15-30.
In: Marine Ecology Progress Series. Inter-Research: Oldendorf/Luhe. ISSN 0171-8630, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 271093 [ OMA ]

    Positive feedback; Sediment stability; Tellina liliana Iredale, 1915 [WoRMS]; Marine
Author keywords
    Deposit-feeding; Microphytobenthos; Benthic macrofauna; Infauna; Habitat modifiers

Authors  Top 
  • Harris, R.J.
  • Pilditch, C.A.
  • Hewitt, J.E.
  • Lohrer, A.M.
  • Van Colen, C., more
  • Townsend, M.
  • Thrush, S.F.

    Biological activities in marine soft-sediments can modify the sedimentary environment through processes that change erosion rates. In low-energy environments, bioturbating macrofauna destabilizes sediments while microbes bind sediments and stabilize them. The degree to which these counter-acting processes influence sediment movement in a physically dynamic environment has not been well quantified. In a field experiment, we established 56 (1 m2) plots on an exposed intertidal sandflat. We used shade cloth and manipulated grazing pressure exerted by the deposit-feeding bivalve Macomona liliana (0-200 ind. m-2) to alter the microphytobenthic community. Three months post-manipulation, initiation of sediment transport (Ʈc) and change in sediment erosion rate with increasing bed shear stress (me) were measured. Mean grain size, density of the spionid polychaete Aonides trifida, density of adult M. liliana, and bulk carbohydrate concentration could account for 54% of the variation in Ʈc (0.3-1.1 N m-2 s-1). Mean grain size was the only significant predictor (p ≤ 0.01) of me explaining 22% of the variability (6-20 g N-1 s-1). Ʈc was negatively correlated with density of several abundant shallow-dwelling bioturbators (indicating sediment destabilization), but we did not observe the expected increase in Ʈc with microbial biomass. Furthermore, there was a positive correlation between adult M. liliana and Ʈc as well as evidence for several positive feedbacks between abundant shallow-dwelling macrofauna and microbial biomass. These study results demonstrate that despite frequent reworking by tidal currents and waves, bioturbating macrofauna are important to initiating sediment transport regardless of their effects on microbial biomass.

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