MEPS 239:181-191 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps239181

Biological mixing responses to sublethal concentrations of DDT in sediments by Heteromastus filiformis using a 137Cs marker layer technique

S. Mulsow1,*, P. F. Landrum2,**, J. A. Robbins2

1Case Western Reserve University, Department of Geological Sciences, 10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA
2Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA, 2205 Commonwealth Blvd., Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105, USA
*Present address: International Atomic Energy Agency‹Marine Environmental Laboratory, PO Box 800, Monte Carlo 98000, Monaco **Corresponding author. E-mail:

ABSTRACT: Sediment mixing by benthic macroinvertebrates is an important process affecting the fate of sediment-bound and dissolved contaminants in marine environments. A non-invasive, state-of-the-art radiotracer technique was used to study sediment mixing by Heteromastus filiformis (Capitellidae), a common marine head-down deposit feeder, exposed to several sub-lethal concentrations of DDT (0, 5, 10 and 20 µg g-1; control, Treatments 1, 2 and 3). Several horizontal sub-millimeter layers of 137Cs-labeled clay were deposited approximately every 2 cm in each of 3 replicate sediment columns per treatment; 4 polychaetes were then introduced to each column and the γ activity of each column was measured vertically using an automated scan detector. Nonlinear least-square fits were applied to obtain parameterized values that were used to determine the mixing rates of each 137Cs layer over time. A simple diffusion model was used to calculate biological diffusion coefficients (Db) for H. filiformis. Overall mixing rates increased towards the surface. Control and Treatment 1 had higher Db values at the surface compared to Treatments 2 and 3. The Db depth profiles were similar in the control and Treatments 1 and 2, with mixing occurring at the sediment water interface and a subsurface maximum at 10 to 12 cm below this interface. This pattern was not clear in Treatment 3, where Db had the lowest values and decreased with depth. Bioturbation besides mixing of solids also changed the water content throughout the sediment column. Porosity profiles at the end of the experiments increased by 10 to 20% at 10 to 12 cm depths compared to above and below this horizon. The DDT depth concentration profiles decreased towards the surface as a result of the mixing by the benthic macroinvertebrates, clearly indicating removal/uptake by the organism. The feeding rate constant (γb, % h-1) in the control showed a maximum at 7 to 12 cm. However, the γb in the treatments was essentially constant with depth. For all treatments and the control, the burial rate (Wb) (downward movement of radiolabeled layers) decreased with depth. The surface layers were buried faster (ANOVA, p < 0.05) in the control than in sediments containing DDT. A sensitivity analysis comparing burial rate, Db, γb (surface only) and worm weights showed that worm weights and burial rate have the highest fractional rate changes per µg g-1 DDT.

KEY WORDS: Bioturbation · Heteromastus filiformis · DDT · Sediment contamination

Full text in pdf format