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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 356:25-38 (2008)  -  DOI:

Fate of contaminants in Baltic Sea sediments: role of bioturbation and settling organic matter

Jenny E. Hedman1,*, Clare Bradshaw1,2, Maria H. Thorsson2, Michael Gilek2, Jonas S. Gunnarsson1

1Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2School of Life Sciences, Södertörn University College, 141 89 Huddinge, Sweden

ABSTRACT: This experimental study examined the interactive effects of bioturbation and settling organic matter (OM) on the fate (burial and remobilisation) of 2 surface-deposited contaminants in Baltic Sea sediment: the metal Cd and a hydrophobic organic pollutant, the flame retardant BDE-99. Three macrofaunal species with diverse feeding and bioturbation strategies were used: the amphipod Monoporeia affinis, the clam Macoma balthica and the polychaete Marenzelleria spp. Radiolabelled contaminants were added to the sediment surface in association with 3 different OM types: (1) phytoplankton, (2) terrestrial lignin and (3) Baltic sediment. Bioturbation by all species increased the retention of both contaminants in the sediment, most effectively M. affinis and M. balthica. A decoupled transport of Cd and BDE-99 by Marenzelleria was observed. Generally, Marenzelleria buried the highest amount of Cd into the sediment but also caused the highest remobilisation to the water, indicating an effective transport of (soluble) Cd over the sediment-water interface via bio-irrigation. Lack of the highly hydrophobic and mainly particle-associated BDE-99 below the sediment surface suggests that Marenzelleria caused no significant particle mixing. The addition of various OM types significantly affected the distribution of Cd, but not of BDE-99. There was an interactive effect between bioturbation (species) and OM type, generally showing an increased burial and release of Cd when associated with phytoplankton in the presence of Marenzelleria. Our results emphasise the importance of understanding the complex interactions between ecological (e.g. infaunal feeding and bioturbation activities) and physiochemical processes (contaminant speciation and sorption kinetics) when assessing the fate of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Cadmium · BDE-99 · HOC · POP · Flame retardant · Marenzelleria spp. · Macoma balthica · Monoporeia affinis · Remobilisation

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Cite this article as: Hedman JE, Bradshaw C, Thorsson MH, Gilek M, Gunnarsson JS (2008) Fate of contaminants in Baltic Sea sediments: role of bioturbation and settling organic matter. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 356:25-38.

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