Eddy correlation measurements of oxygen fluxes in permeable sediments exposed to varying current flow and light

Peter Berg, Matthew H. Long, Markus Huettel, Jennie E. Rheuban, Karen J. McGlathery, Robert W. Howarth, Kenneth H. Foreman, Anne E. Giblin and Roxanne Marino

Limnol. Oceanogr., 58(4), 2013, 1329-1343 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2013.58.4.1329

ABSTRACT: Based on noninvasive eddy correlation measurements at a marine and a freshwater site, this study documents the control that current flow and light have on sediment–water oxygen fluxes in permeable sediments. The marine sediment was exposed to tidal-driven current and light, and the oxygen flux varied from night to day between −29 and 78 mmol m−2 d−1. A fitting model, assuming a linear increase in oxygen respiration with current flow, and a photosynthesis–irradiance curve for light-controlled production reproduced measured fluxes well (R2 = 0.992) and revealed a 4-fold increase in oxygen uptake when current velocity increased from ∼ 0 to 20 cm s−1. Application of the model to a week-long measured record of current velocity and light showed that net ecosystem metabolism varied substantially among days, between −27 and 31 mmol m−2 d−1, due to variations in light and current flow. This variation is likely typical of many shallow-water systems and highlights the need for long-term flux integrations to determine system metabolism accurately. At the freshwater river site, the sediment–water oxygen flux ranged from −360 to 137 mmol m−2 d−1. A direct comparison during nighttime with concurrent benthic chamber incubations revealed a 4.1 times larger eddy flux than that obtained with chambers. The current velocity during this comparison was 31 cm s−1, and the large discrepancy was likely caused by poor imitation by the chambers of the natural pore-water flushing at this high current velocity. These results emphasize the need for more noninvasive oxygen flux measurements in permeable sediments to accurately assess their role in local and global carbon budgets.

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