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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 648:67-78 (2020)  -  DOI:

Assessment of sediment penetrability as an integrated in situ measure of intertidal softsediment conditions

Travis G. Gerwing1,2,*, Myriam A. Barbeau3, Diana J. Hamilton4, Alyssa M. Allen Gerwing5, Jesse Sinclair6, Lily Campbell1, Morgan M. Davies2, Bronwyn Harvey2, Francis Juanes1, Sarah E. Dudas1,7

1University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8P 5C2, Canada
2Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, Parks Canada, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 2P6, Canada
3University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5A3, Canada
4Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick E4L 1E2, Canada
5Sidney Museum, Sidney, British Columbia V8L 1X5, Canada
6LGL Ltd., Sidney, British Columbia V8L 3Y8, Canada
7Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9T 6N7, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Infauna have an intimate relationship with the sediments they inhabit, and any study conducted upon infauna must, at the very least, describe sediment conditions. Common sediment assessments in intertidal systems include particle size distribution, as well as water and organic matter contents. These measures require extracting and processing a sediment core, and this disturbance may result in data that do not necessarily reflect in situ conditions. Sediment penetrability measured in situ using a penetrometer can circumvent this limitation. However, relationships between sediment penetrability and other sediment variables are poorly understood, especially in coastal systems. We evaluated the relationship between sediment penetrability and depth to the apparent redox potential discontinuity, mean particle size, organic matter content, and water content on tidal flats along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of Canada. We also assessed whether adding penetrability into environmental models of the infaunal community improved model performance. We observed that while penetrability is statistically related to other sediment variables, relationships to covariates were weak. Further, inclusion of penetrability with other sediment variables improved the performance of models predicting infaunal community composition. Therefore, penetrability can be considered a separate variable, and contributes to an integrated assessment of environmental conditions experienced by biota. Finally, since we evaluated this method in different soft-sediment intertidal ecosystems (mudflats to sandflats), this method is applicable to a range of systems in other geographical areas.

KEY WORDS: Soft sediment · Tidal flats · Bay of Fundy · Skeena River · Infauna · Invertebrates

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Cite this article as: Gerwing TG, Barbeau MA, Hamilton DJ, Allen Gerwing AM and others (2020) Assessment of sediment penetrability as an integrated in situ measure of intertidal softsediment conditions. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 648:67-78.

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