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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 380:19-32 (2009)  -  DOI:

Organic matter input and processing in two contrasting North Sea sediments: insights from stable isotope and biomass data

Dick van Oevelen1,*, Karline Soetaert1, Maria A. Franco2,3, Leon Moodley1, Lennart van IJzerloo1, Magda Vincx2, Jan Vanaverbeke2

1Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), PO Box 140, 4400 AC Yerseke, The Netherlands
2Marine Biology Section, Biology Department, Ghent University, Krijgslaan 281 (S8), 9000 Gent, Belgium
3Instituto de Oceanografia, Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon, Campo Grande, 1749-016 Lisboa, Portugal

ABSTRACT: Organic matter input and processing was studied in 2 contrasting sediments (Stn 115FINE and Stn 330COARSE) in the southern North Sea. The sediments are subjected to similar hydrodynamic conditions, but Stn 115FINE underlies a high turbidity zone, making it a fine, low-permeability sediment. Monthly data on chlorophyll a (chl a), δ13C and δ15N of particulate organic matter in the water column and sediment showed that the algal spring bloom deposition created a strong vertical gradient of sedimentary chl a at Stn 115FINE. Macrobenthic biomass (78 ± 60 g C m–2, mean ± SD) was dominated by suspension feeders, suggesting biological mediation of the organic matter input. In contrast, the offshore Stn 330COARSE is a coarse, high-permeability sediment in which chl a penetrated centimeters deep due to physically mediated input. The macrobenthic community, low in biomass (3.8 ± 2.4 g C m–2), was dominated by mobile polychaetes and epibenthic amphipods, which is characteristic of physically disturbed sediments. Overall, sediment characteristics played an important but indirect role in the organic matter input and processing. At Stn 115FINE, a large macrobenthic community developed that mediated the input of organic matter to the sediment through herbivore and predatory pathways. At Stn 330COARSE, in contrast, organic matter input seemed to be dominated by physical processes. Overall, the fraction of algal carbon degraded in the sediment was higher at Stn 115FINE than at Stn 330COARSE, indicating that the physical input at Stn 330COARSE was less efficient than the biological input at Stn 115FINE.

KEY WORDS: Food web · Carbon isotope · Nitrogen isotope · Coastal sediment · North sea · Permeable sediment · Benthic · Pelagic coupling

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Cite this article as: van Oevelen D, Soetaert K, Franco MA, Moodley L, van IJzerloo L, Vincx M, Vanaverbeke J (2009) Organic matter input and processing in two contrasting North Sea sediments: insights from stable isotope and biomass data. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 380:19-32.

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