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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 372:195-209 (2008)  -  DOI:

Fish activity: a major mechanism for sediment resuspension and organic matter remineralization in coastal marine sediments

Gitai Yahel1,6,*,**, Ruthy Yahel1,2,**, Timor Katz3,4,**, Boaz Lazar3, Barak Herut4, Verena Tunnicliffe1,2,5

1Department of Biology, University of Victoria, PO Box 3020, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3N5, Canada
2VENUS, University of Victoria, PO Box 1700, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada
3The Institute of Earth Sciences, The Hebrew University, Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
4Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research, Haifa 31080, Israel
5School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria, PO Box 3055, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 3P6, Canada
6Present address:
School of Marine and Environmental Science, Michmoret 40297, Israel
**These authors contributed equally to this work

ABSTRACT: We quantify sediment resuspension due to groundfish activity in a partly anoxic basin using acoustic backscatter sensors, transmissometers, and remotely operated cameras on stationary and mobile platforms. Where these fish were present, a distinct benthic nepheloid layer (BNL) developed despite minimal bottom currents (<10 cm s–1). In contrast, water clarity was markedly higher over the adjacent anoxic and fishless zone. Sediment resuspension events, mostly by flatfish, occurred at a rate of >100 disturbances m–2 d–1 resulting in complete surface reworking every 2.5 d and a daily resuspension of 1.3 ± 0.7 l bulk sediment m–2 d–1. Preliminary geochemical measurements suggest substantial impact of fish resuspension activity, the immediate effect being an instantaneous increase in nutrient concentration in the benthic boundary layer and a drop in oxygen concentration. Over longer time scales (hours to days), the freshly exposed organic matter is oxidized and additional nutrients (silica, ammonium, phosphate) are regenerated and released to the water. The increase in benthic oxygen demand suggests that fish activity reduces organic carbon sequestration by 9 ± 5 mmol C m–2 d–1, equivalent to ~40% of its downward flux in this basin. To date, these processes are missing from geochemical models and require further investigation, particularly considering the depletion of groundfish stocks and the likely effects on global biogeochemical cycles.

KEY WORDS: Bioturbation · Benthic–pelagic coupling · Sediment geochemistry · Carbon sequestration · Flatfish · Saanich Inlet

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Cite this article as: Yahel G, Yahel R, Katz T, Lazar B, Herut B, Tunnicliffe V (2008) Fish activity: a major mechanism for sediment resuspension and organic matter remineralization in coastal marine sediments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 372:195-209.

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