MEPS 143:173-185 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps143173

Impact of boundary layer flow velocity on oxygen utilisation in coastal sediments

Forster S, Huettel M, Ziebis W

Small pressure gradients generated by boundary flow-topography interactions cause advective pore water flows in permeable sediments. Advective pore water exchange enhances the flux of solutes between the sediment and the overlying water, thus generating conditions for an increased utilisation of oxygen. We compared a less permeable (k = 5 x10-12 m2) with a permeable sediment (k = 5 x 10-11 m2) typical for coastal and shelf sediments. Total oxygen utilisation (TOU) in incubated sediment cores was measured in 10 laboratory experiments using recirculating flow tanks (33 runs). TOU was a function of flow velocity in permeable sediment where advective pore water flow occurred. TOU increased with the increasing volume of sediment flushed with oxygenated water. We found that TOU increased by 91 ± 23% in coarse sand when flow increased from 3 to 14 cm s-1 (38 mounds m-2, height 10 to 30 mm, flow measured 8 cm above the sediment). Addition of fresh algal material caused a stronger stimulation of TOU in the coarse sand than in the fine sand (4 additional flume runs). After the addition, intensive oxygen consumption reduced the oxygen penetration depth in the advectively flushed zone of the coarse sediment. However, counteracting this process, advective flow maintained an oxic sediment volume still larger than that in the less permeable sediment. Flow-enhanced oxygen utilisation is potentially effective in permeable beds of coastal and shelf regions, in contrast to the situation in cohesive sediments limited by predominantly diffusive oxygen supply.


Oxygen utilisation · Solute transport · Permeability · Carbon oxidation · Advection · Sediment topography


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