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Free Content Sediment bioturbation by polychaete feeding may promote sediment stability

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Feeding characteristics and burrowing activities of bioturbators can change the dynamic of soft bottoms. The nereidid polychaete Laeonereis acuta (Treadwell, 1923), is an important component in the intertidal mudflats of the Mar Chiquita coastal lagoon (37°32′S, 57°19′W; Argentina). Its feeding mode and burrowing activity were examined in relation between sediment bioturbation and sediment bedload transport. L. acuta is a deposit feeder that lives in burrows connected to the surface. Burrow depth is related to size, although most worms inhabit the upper 5 cm. Burrows less than 21 mm total length were U-shaped whereas individuals >21 mm in length were found in straight vertical tubes with only one aperture at sediment-water interface. The number of sediment mounds produced by L. acuta feeding were correlated with their density (1324.16 ind m−2), producing up to 57.8 g m−2 d−1 of sediment on the surface. Sediments from mounds were coarser, better sorted and showed a significantly higher amount of organic matter than surrounding bottom sediments. An experiment using bedload traps deployed in a large area dominated by this species showed that the particle size of the sediment from mounds were larger than those transported by bedload. This pattern suggests that cohesive, organically rich sediment deposited at the surface by polychaete feeding stabilizes the sediment. Under conditions of low environmental energy, bioturbation by L. acuta may promote sediment stability.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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