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Free Content A particle introduction experiment in Santa Catalina Basin sediments: Testing the age-dependent mixing hypothesis

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The occurrence of "age-dependent mixing," a process by which recently deposited, food-rich particles undergo more intense bioturbation than older, food-poor particles, could dramatically alter patterns of organic-matter diagenesis in deep-sea sediments. To explicitly test for age-dependent mixing, an in-situ particle introduction experiment was conducted on the bathyal Santa Catalina Basin floor. Mixtures of radioisotope-tagged particles representing a food quality gradient were dispersed in small amounts on the seafloor and sampled over periods of 0 to 594 days. Introduced particle types were all similar in size and included fresh diatoms ("young" particles), surface sediments ("intermediate-age" particles), and particles from 30-cm deep in the sediment column ("old" particles). This approach permitted evaluation of particle mixing intensity for several particle "ages" and provided an independent check on mixing coefficients determined from naturally occurring radioisotopes (234Thxs and 210Pbxs). All particles experienced rapid (<6 h) transport into the upper 2 cm of the seabed resulting from passive deposition down burrows or extremely rapid bioturbation. Intense bioturbation on 4-d time scales included both biodiffusive and nondiffusive (bioadvective and nonlocal) transport. Bioturbation of tracers exhibited time (or "age") dependence in two ways: (1) Diffusive mixing intensity for all tracer types decreased with time (4-d Db = 293 cm2 y-1, Db at 520 d = 2.6 cm2 y-1), and (2) The nature of bioturbation changed over this period with more efficient bioadvection and nonlocal exchange giving way to slower diffusive mixing. Both changes are consistent with the age-dependent-mixing hypothesis. Biodiffusive mixing was not measurably selective, with no significant preference for a single particle type. In contrast, nondiffusive transport, likely caused by deposit-feeding cirratulid polychaetes, exhibited distinct particle selectivity, especially over 4-d time scales, with the diatom tracer transported most rapidly to depth. Degradation of the labile organic carbon in diatoms most likely led to decreasing selection of diatoms by deposit feeders until diatoms and "old" sediment particles experienced comparable mixing intensities.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, 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. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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