Small-scale spatial and temporal variability in benthic O2 dynamics of coastal sediments: Effects of fauna activity

Wenzhöfer, Frank, Ronnie N. Glud

Limnol. Oceanogr., 49(5), 2004, 1471-1481 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2004.49.5.1471

ABSTRACT: In situ measurements in a shallow water sediment were performed using three different modules—a microprofiling unit, a transparent benthic chamber, and a planar optode periscope. The combined data set revealed an extremely patchy and variable benthic O2 distribution primarily due to temporal variations in fauna activity and photosynthesis. A distinct diel pattern in the fauna activity, dominated by Hediste diversicolor, resulted in strongly elevated O2 uptake rates of ~5.3 mmol m-2 h-1 at the onset of darkness. The activity gradually diminished during the night, and the O2 uptake decreased to less than half the maximum rate just before sunrise. The volume of oxic sediment around burrow structures was influenced by changing environmental conditions (benthic photosynthesis and fauna activity) but grossly exceeded that below the primary sediment surface. The volume specific respiration rate around burrows was more than seven times higher than the equivalent value at the sediment surface. A budget of the O2 consumption revealed that the O2 uptake through the burrow walls just after sunset accounted for the major part of the total O2 uptake on a diel scale. The study demonstrates that light-driven variations in fauna activity can have great effects on the total benthic O2 consumption rate with large implications for estimated benthic mineralization rates.

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