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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 392:33-42 (2009)  -  DOI:

Effects of abiotic stressors on infaunal burrowing and associated sediment characteristics

R. Przeslawski1,3,*, Q. Zhu2, R. Aller2

1Ecology & Evolution Department and 2School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA
3Present address: Geoscience Australia, Marine and Coastal Environment Group, GPO Box 378, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601, Australia

ABSTRACT: Infauna play key roles in nutrient cycling and bioturbation by facilitating exchange across the sediment–water interface, but the effects of environmental stressors on the behavior of infauna are poorly studied compared to epifauna. Here we used laboratory experiments to examine the effects of temperature (15, 21, and 32°C), salinity (16, 22, 28, and 34), and food availability (low, moderate, high) on the burrowing activity of the opportunistic deposit-feeding polychaete Capitella sp. 1. We also used pH and O2 fluorosensors to investigate the effects of burrowing on marine sediment chemistry. Worms buried significantly deeper at 21 than at 15°C, and they died at 32°C. Salinity only marginally affected the area of burrowing activity, with greater area at 35 than at 22. Burrows in highly enriched treatments were significantly more shallow than those in moderate and low food treatments. The fluorosensors showed that the exchange of solutes between the sediment and overlying water was associated with burrowing activity. These results show that changes in environmental conditions affect infaunal burrowing activity, which in turn affects sediment characteristics. We discuss the need to consider infaunal responses to abiotic stress in order to understand community and ecosystem responses to environmental changes associated with climate change, pollution, and eutrophication.

KEY WORDS: Annelid . Geochemistry . Mudflat . Multiple stressors

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Cite this article as: Przeslawski R, Zhu Q, Aller R (2009) Effects of abiotic stressors on infaunal burrowing and associated sediment characteristics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 392:33-42.

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