MEPS 288:59-74 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps288059

Relative importance of macrofaunal burrows for the microbial mineralization of pyrene in marine sediments: impact of macrofaunal species and organic matter quality

Maria E. Granberg1,*, Rikke Hansen2, Henriette Selck2

1Göteborg University, Department of Marine Ecology, Kristineberg Marine Research Station, 450 34 Fiskebäckskil, Sweden
2Department of Life Sciences and Chemistry, Roskilde University, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark

ABSTRACT: The significance of macrofaunal burrows for microbial organic matter mineralization is well recognized. However, despite the importance of marine sediments as main sinks for organic particle-reactive contaminants such as polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the significance of biogenic structures for microbial pollutant mineralization is largely unknown. We measured microbial mineralization of the PAH pyrene in different sediment compartments (surface, burrow and reduced bulk sediments) as a function of contamination history (uncontaminated and pyrene-exposed), macrofaunal species (Amphiura filiformis and Nereis diversicolor) and sediment organic matter quality (labile Tetraselmis sp. and refractory lignin). Sediments were exposed to combinations of the 3 factors for 43 d, after which sediment samples from the 3 compartments were incubated for radio-respirometric measurements in 14C-pyrene-coated flasks to monitor 14CO2 production (i.e. pyrene mineralization) for 128 d. Pyrene exposure enhanced microbial pyrene mineralization (MPM) rates by an order of magnitude in all compartments, signifying MPM as inducible. MPM rates increased successively from reduced bulk to burrow and surface sediments in uncontaminated treatments, while MPM rates were highest in burrows when exposed to pyrene. This emphasizes the oxygen dependence of MPM and pinpoints burrows as MPM hot spots. Enrichment with labile organic matter doubled MPM rates in pyrene-exposed surface sediment, likely fertilizing MPM where oxygen is readily available. Burrow sediment MPM rates were doubled with A. filiformis, suggesting species-specific stimulation of the microbial community within the burrows. In conclusion, burrow sediment appears to be at least as important as surface sediment for microbial PAH degradation in marine sediments. Furthermore, macrofaunal biodiversity, sedimentation events and the trophic state of the system should be taken into account when the fate and effects of organic contaminants are assessed in marine systems.

KEY WORDS: Polyaromatic hydrocarbon · PAH · Biogenic structures · Biodegradation · Nereis diversicolor · Amphiura filiformis · Organic carbon quality

Full text in pdf format