A process based model of cohesive sediment resuspension under bioturbators’ influence

Francesco Cozzoli*, Vojsava Gjoni, Michela Del Pasqua, Zhan Hu, Tom Ysebaert, Peter M.J. Herman, Tjeerd J. Bouma

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Macrozoobenthos may affect sediment stability and erodibility via their bioturbating activities, thereby impacting both the short- and long-term development of coastal morphology. Process-based models accounting for the effect of bioturbation are needed for the modelling of erosion dynamics. With this work, we explore whether the fundamental allometric principles of metabolic activity scaling with individual and population size may provide a framework to derive general patterns of bioturbation effect on cohesive sediment resuspension. Experimental flumes were used to test this scaling approach across different species of marine, soft-sediment bioturbators. The collected dataset encompasses a range of bioturbator functional diversity, individual densities, body sizes and overall population metabolic rates. Measurements were collected across a range of hydrodynamic stress from 0.02 to 0.25 Pa. Overall, we observed that bioturbators are able to slightly reduce the sediment resuspension at low hydrodynamic stress, whereas they noticeably enhance it at higher levels of stress. Along the whole hydrodynamic stress gradient, the quantitative effect of bioturbators on sediment resuspension can be efficiently described by the overall metabolic rate of the bioturbating benthic communities, with significant variations across the bioturbators’ taxonomic and functional diversity. One of the tested species (the gallery-builder Polychaeta Hediste diversicolor) had an effect that was partially deviating from the general trend, being able to markedly reduce sediment resuspension at low hydrodynamic stress compared to other species. By combining bioturbators’ influence with hydrodynamic force, we were able to produce a process-based model of biota-mediated sediment resuspension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-30
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019


  • Annular flumes
  • Bioturbation
  • Metabolism
  • Process-based model
  • Sediment resuspension


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