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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS - Vol. 441- Feature article
Aphrocallistes vastus and Heterochone calyx are reef-building glass sponges whose heavily silicified skeletons create large reservoirs of silicon, which cycle over the timescale of years. Photo:S. P. Leys, V. Tunnicliffe, ROPOS


Chu JWF, Maldonado M, Yahel G, Leys SP


Glass sponge reefs as a silicon sink


Glass sponges form reefs, kilometres in scale, at depths of 60 to 200 m on the continental shelf of British Columbia, Canada. Because the sponges are 80 % silica, entire reefs represent vast reservoirs of silicon. Chu and colleagues calculated the silicon budgets of three glass sponge reefs in the Strait of Georgia. They found that the accumulation of silicon due to sponge growth far surpassed the amount lost from dissolution. Therefore, whereas biological silicon cycling is largely tied to primary productivity in surface waters, this study shows that dense populations of glass sponges can biologically facilitate the removal of silicon at the seafloor and constitute a locally significant silicon sink.


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