MEPS 441:1-14 (2011)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09381

FEATURE ARTICLE
Glass sponge reefs as a silicon sink

Jackson W. F. Chu1, Manuel Maldonado2, Gitai Yahel3, Sally P. Leys1,*

1Department of Biological Sciences, CW 405, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9, Canada
2Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Blanes (CSIC), Acceso Cala St. Francesc 14, 17300 Blanes, Girona, Spain
3The School of Marine Sciences and Marine Environment, Ruppin Academic Center, Michmoret, 40297, Israel

ABSTRACT: Glass sponge reefs concentrate large amounts of biological silicon (Si) over relatively small areas of the seafloor. We examined the role of glass sponges in biological silicon (Si) cycling by calculating a Si budget for 3 glass sponge reefs (Howe, Fraser, and Galiano) in the Strait of Georgia (SOG), British Columbia, Canada. The main reef-forming glass sponge Aphrocallistes vastus is heavily silicified, with 80% of its dry weight composed of biogenic silica (bSi). We used a combination of field sampling and surveys with a remote-operated vehicle to estimate the volume, mass, and bSi content of the reefs. BSi content ranged from 7 to 11 kg m−2 among reefs, amounting to a total of 915 t of bSi locked in the exposed portion of the 3 reefs. Water column measurements of dissolved Si (dSi) indicated that the SOG is a region of high dSi, with average dSi concentrations of 50 µmol l−1 in waters over the reefs. The skeletons of glass sponges showed very little dissolution after 8 mo immersion in seawater, as determined by changes in dSi in samples and scanning electron microscopy of the spicules. In contrast, diatom frustules, the main source of bSi in surface waters of the SOG, were ~200 times more soluble. Our calculations of Si flux suggest that glass sponge reefs can equate to 65% of the dSi reservoir (3.6 × 109 mol Si) in the SOG and represent a substantial Si sink in the continental shelf waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean.


KEY WORDS: Glass sponge reef . Silicon cycling . Strait of Georgia . Hexactinellida, Porifera, Aphrocallistes vastus


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Cite this article as: Chu JWF, Maldonado M, Yahel G, Leys SP (2011) Glass sponge reefs as a silicon sink. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 441:1-14. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps09381

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