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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 446:285-302 (2012)  -  DOI:

What is bioturbation? The need for a precise definition for fauna in aquatic sciences

Erik Kristensen1,*, Gil Penha-Lopes2, Matthieu Delefosse1, Thomas Valdemarsen1, Cintia O. Quintana1,3, Gary T. Banta4

1Institute of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, 5230 Odense M, Denmark
2Centro de Oceanografia, Laboratório Marítimo da Guia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, Avenida Na Senhora do Cabo 939, 2750-374 Cascais, Portugal
3Oceanographic Institute of University of São Paulo, Praça do Oceanográfico 191, Cidade Universitária, 05508-120 São Paulo, Brazil
4Department of Environmental, Social and Spatial Change, Roskilde University, Universitetsvej 1, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark

ABSTRACT: The term ‘bioturbation’ is frequently used to describe how living organisms affect the substratum in which they live. A closer look at the aquatic science literature reveals, however, an inconsistent usage of the term with increasing perplexity in recent years. Faunal disturbance has often been referred to as particle reworking, while water movement (if considered) is referred to as bioirrigation in many cases. For consistency, we therefore propose that, for contemporary aquatic scientific disciplines, faunal bioturbation in aquatic environments includes all transport processes carried out by animals that directly or indirectly affect sediment matrices. These processes include both particle reworking and burrow ventilation. With this definition, bioturbation acts as an ‘umbrella’ term that covers all transport processes and their physical effects on the substratum. Particle reworking occurs through burrow construction and maintenance, as well as ingestion and defecation, and causes biomixing of the substratum. Organic matter and microorganisms are thus displaced vertically and laterally within the sediment matrix. Particle reworking animals can be categorized as biodiffusors, upward conveyors, downward conveyors and regenerators depending on their behaviour, life style and feeding type. Burrow ventilation occurs when animals flush their open- or blind-ended burrows with overlying water for respiratory and feeding purposes, and it causes advective or diffusive bioirrigation exchange of solutes between the sediment pore water and the overlying water body. Many bioturbating species perform reworking and ventilation simultaneously. We also propose that the effects of bioturbation on other organisms and associated processes (e.g. microbial driven biogeochemical transformations) are considered within the conceptual framework of ecosystem engineering.

KEY WORDS: Particle reworking · Biomixing · Burrow ventilation · Bioirrigation · Ecosystem engineering · Sediment

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Cite this article as: Kristensen E, Penha-Lopes G, Delefosse M, Valdemarsen T, Quintana CO, Banta GT (2012) What is bioturbation? The need for a precise definition for fauna in aquatic sciences. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 446:285-302.

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