Functional trait responses to sediment deposition reduce macrofauna-mediated ecosystem functioning in an estuarine mudflat

Sebastiaan Mestdagh*, Leila Bagaço, Ulrike Braeckman, Tom Ysebaert, Bart De Smet, Tom Moens, Carl Van Colen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Human activities, among which dredging and land use change in river basins, are altering estuarine ecosystems. These activities may result in changes in sedimentary processes, affecting biodiversity of sediment macrofauna. As macrofauna controls sediment chemistry and fluxes of energy and matter between water column and sediment, changes in the structure of macrobenthic communities could affect the functioning of an entire ecosystem. We assessed the impact of sediment deposition on intertidal macrobenthic communities and on rates of an important ecosystem function, i.e. sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). An experiment was performed with undisturbed sediment samples from the Scheldt river estuary (SW Netherlands). The samples were subjected to four sedimentation regimes: one control and three with a deposited sediment layer of 1, 2 or 5 cm. Oxygen consumption was measured during incubation at ambient temperature. Luminophores applied at the surface, and a seawater-bromide mixture, served as tracers for bioturbation and bio-irrigation, respectively. After incubation, the macrofauna was extracted, identified, and counted and then classified into functional groups based on motility and sediment reworking capacity. Total macrofaunal densities dropped already under the thinnest deposits. The most affected fauna were surficial and low-motility animals, occurring at high densities in the control. Their mortality resulted in a drop in SCOC, which decreased steadily with increasing deposit thickness, while bio-irrigation and bioturbation activity showed increases in the lower sediment deposition regimes but decreases in the more extreme treatments. The initial increased activity likely counteracted the effects of the drop in low-motility, surficial fauna densities, resulting in a steady rather than sudden fall in oxygen consumption. We conclude that the functional identity in terms of motility and sediment reworking can be crucial in our understanding of the regulation of ecosystem functioning and the impact of habitat alterations such as sediment deposition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2587-2599
JournalBiogeosciences
Volume15
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2018

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sediment deposition
mudflat
sediments
ecosystems
ecosystem
sediment
oxygen consumption
motility
bioturbation
reworking
fauna
irrigation
incubation
intertidal community
sediment chemistry
estuarine ecosystem
bromides
land use change
tracer techniques
Netherlands

Cite this

Mestdagh, Sebastiaan ; Bagaço, Leila ; Braeckman, Ulrike ; Ysebaert, Tom ; De Smet, Bart ; Moens, Tom ; Van Colen, Carl. / Functional trait responses to sediment deposition reduce macrofauna-mediated ecosystem functioning in an estuarine mudflat. In: Biogeosciences. 2018 ; Vol. 15, No. 9. pp. 2587-2599.
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title = "Functional trait responses to sediment deposition reduce macrofauna-mediated ecosystem functioning in an estuarine mudflat",
abstract = "Human activities, among which dredging and land use change in river basins, are altering estuarine ecosystems. These activities may result in changes in sedimentary processes, affecting biodiversity of sediment macrofauna. As macrofauna controls sediment chemistry and fluxes of energy and matter between water column and sediment, changes in the structure of macrobenthic communities could affect the functioning of an entire ecosystem. We assessed the impact of sediment deposition on intertidal macrobenthic communities and on rates of an important ecosystem function, i.e. sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). An experiment was performed with undisturbed sediment samples from the Scheldt river estuary (SW Netherlands). The samples were subjected to four sedimentation regimes: one control and three with a deposited sediment layer of 1, 2 or 5 cm. Oxygen consumption was measured during incubation at ambient temperature. Luminophores applied at the surface, and a seawater-bromide mixture, served as tracers for bioturbation and bio-irrigation, respectively. After incubation, the macrofauna was extracted, identified, and counted and then classified into functional groups based on motility and sediment reworking capacity. Total macrofaunal densities dropped already under the thinnest deposits. The most affected fauna were surficial and low-motility animals, occurring at high densities in the control. Their mortality resulted in a drop in SCOC, which decreased steadily with increasing deposit thickness, while bio-irrigation and bioturbation activity showed increases in the lower sediment deposition regimes but decreases in the more extreme treatments. The initial increased activity likely counteracted the effects of the drop in low-motility, surficial fauna densities, resulting in a steady rather than sudden fall in oxygen consumption. We conclude that the functional identity in terms of motility and sediment reworking can be crucial in our understanding of the regulation of ecosystem functioning and the impact of habitat alterations such as sediment deposition.",
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Functional trait responses to sediment deposition reduce macrofauna-mediated ecosystem functioning in an estuarine mudflat. / Mestdagh, Sebastiaan; Bagaço, Leila; Braeckman, Ulrike; Ysebaert, Tom; De Smet, Bart; Moens, Tom; Van Colen, Carl.

In: Biogeosciences, Vol. 15, No. 9, 04.05.2018, p. 2587-2599.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

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AU - Mestdagh, Sebastiaan

AU - Bagaço, Leila

AU - Braeckman, Ulrike

AU - Ysebaert, Tom

AU - De Smet, Bart

AU - Moens, Tom

AU - Van Colen, Carl

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N2 - Human activities, among which dredging and land use change in river basins, are altering estuarine ecosystems. These activities may result in changes in sedimentary processes, affecting biodiversity of sediment macrofauna. As macrofauna controls sediment chemistry and fluxes of energy and matter between water column and sediment, changes in the structure of macrobenthic communities could affect the functioning of an entire ecosystem. We assessed the impact of sediment deposition on intertidal macrobenthic communities and on rates of an important ecosystem function, i.e. sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). An experiment was performed with undisturbed sediment samples from the Scheldt river estuary (SW Netherlands). The samples were subjected to four sedimentation regimes: one control and three with a deposited sediment layer of 1, 2 or 5 cm. Oxygen consumption was measured during incubation at ambient temperature. Luminophores applied at the surface, and a seawater-bromide mixture, served as tracers for bioturbation and bio-irrigation, respectively. After incubation, the macrofauna was extracted, identified, and counted and then classified into functional groups based on motility and sediment reworking capacity. Total macrofaunal densities dropped already under the thinnest deposits. The most affected fauna were surficial and low-motility animals, occurring at high densities in the control. Their mortality resulted in a drop in SCOC, which decreased steadily with increasing deposit thickness, while bio-irrigation and bioturbation activity showed increases in the lower sediment deposition regimes but decreases in the more extreme treatments. The initial increased activity likely counteracted the effects of the drop in low-motility, surficial fauna densities, resulting in a steady rather than sudden fall in oxygen consumption. We conclude that the functional identity in terms of motility and sediment reworking can be crucial in our understanding of the regulation of ecosystem functioning and the impact of habitat alterations such as sediment deposition.

AB - Human activities, among which dredging and land use change in river basins, are altering estuarine ecosystems. These activities may result in changes in sedimentary processes, affecting biodiversity of sediment macrofauna. As macrofauna controls sediment chemistry and fluxes of energy and matter between water column and sediment, changes in the structure of macrobenthic communities could affect the functioning of an entire ecosystem. We assessed the impact of sediment deposition on intertidal macrobenthic communities and on rates of an important ecosystem function, i.e. sediment community oxygen consumption (SCOC). An experiment was performed with undisturbed sediment samples from the Scheldt river estuary (SW Netherlands). The samples were subjected to four sedimentation regimes: one control and three with a deposited sediment layer of 1, 2 or 5 cm. Oxygen consumption was measured during incubation at ambient temperature. Luminophores applied at the surface, and a seawater-bromide mixture, served as tracers for bioturbation and bio-irrigation, respectively. After incubation, the macrofauna was extracted, identified, and counted and then classified into functional groups based on motility and sediment reworking capacity. Total macrofaunal densities dropped already under the thinnest deposits. The most affected fauna were surficial and low-motility animals, occurring at high densities in the control. Their mortality resulted in a drop in SCOC, which decreased steadily with increasing deposit thickness, while bio-irrigation and bioturbation activity showed increases in the lower sediment deposition regimes but decreases in the more extreme treatments. The initial increased activity likely counteracted the effects of the drop in low-motility, surficial fauna densities, resulting in a steady rather than sudden fall in oxygen consumption. We conclude that the functional identity in terms of motility and sediment reworking can be crucial in our understanding of the regulation of ecosystem functioning and the impact of habitat alterations such as sediment deposition.

U2 - 10.5194/bg-15-2587-2018

DO - 10.5194/bg-15-2587-2018

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JO - Biogeosciences

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