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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 639:21-35 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13281

Short-term fate of seagrass and macroalgal detritus in Arenicola marina bioturbated sediments

Alexandra C. G. Thomson1, Erik Kristensen2, Thomas Valdemarsen2, Cintia O. Quintana2,*

1Climate Change Cluster (C3), University of Technology Sydney NSW 2007, Ultimo, New South Wales, Australia
2Department of Biology, University of Southern Denmark, 5230 Odense M, Denmark
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Seagrass meadows are globally important ecosystems for carbon (C) sequestration. However, bioturbation by benthic fauna can alter the distribution, degradation and overall preservation of C in the sediment. We performed a 4 wk laboratory experiment to investigate the short-term degradation and burial of 2 major C sources in bare sediments associated with seagrass ecosystems. Eelgrass Zostera marina and macroalgal (Fucus vesiculosus) detritus were amended in sediment with and without bioturbation by the common polychaete Arenicola marina. Bioturbation did not significantly affect the loss of eelgrass detritus (>0.5 mm), but caused a rapid burial of this material as a discrete layer (55% recovery) at sediment depths ranging from 8 to 14 cm. A. marina effects on macroalgal detritus were more pronounced, resulting, in total, in an 80% loss of macroalgal detritus by microbial degradation and worm ingestion. We conclude that A. marina bioturbation effectively buries eelgrass detritus into deep anoxic sediments, but we cannot confirm that this leads to enhanced C preservation in coastal ecosystems. In contrast, A. marina bioturbation significantly increases the degradation of macroalgal tissue, and it is unlikely that this detritus is a major source for permanent C burial.


KEY WORDS: Carbon degradation · Carbon burial · Lugworm · Bioturbation · Zostera marina · Fucus vesiculosus


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Cite this article as: Thomson ACG, Kristensen E, Valdemarsen T, Quintana CO (2020) Short-term fate of seagrass and macroalgal detritus in Arenicola marina bioturbated sediments. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 639:21-35. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13281

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