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Free Content The effect of biogenic irrigation intensity and solute exchange on diagenetic reaction rates in marine sediments

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The activities of infaunal macrobenthos strongly influence the pathways, rates, and extent of organic matter remineralization and associated reactions in marine sediments. Solute transport during irrigation is a particularly important process that stimulates microbial activity and net remineralization, both within and adjacent to the bioturbated zone. Part of the stimulation proximal to the bioturbated zone is due to redox oscillation and oxidant supply during transport, but part of both the near and far-field effects are a result of other factors. Experiments designed to simulate different degrees of diffusive exchange, and thus infaunal abundances or activity, demonstrate a regular and strong dependence of anaerobic remineralization on diffusive transport. For example, net production of NH4+, HPO4=, I-, and Mn++ increases as the effective distance between burrows becomes ≲2 cm (burrow abundance ≳ 800 m-2) in otherwise identical anoxic sediment. Corresponding changes in sedimentary bacterial numbers, exoenzyme activity, per cell growth rate (RNA), and solid phase properties (N, C/N, P) indicate that the increases in net rates are due in part to an absolute increase in total production. Transport-reaction models and experimental results demonstrate that relative decreases in the uptake of solutes into biomass, abiogenic precipitation reactions, and increased removal of inhibiting metabolites all occur simultaneously, enhancing both total and net remineralization. The phenonomenological first-order rate constant for organic matter decomposition is therefore a function not only of the reductant and oxidant pool properties, but also the environmental transport regime. Solid phase reaction products can differ substantially as a function of diffusive openness. For example, both organic P and the organic P/inorganic P ratio increase in more diffusively-open (irrigated) compared to diffusively-closed, anoxic sediment. The sensitivity of solute concentrations, microbial activity and diagenetic reaction balances to diffusive transport regime, indicates that macrofauna can functionally manipulate these properties through relatively small changes in burrow spacing patterns and individual burrow geometries.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 1998

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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