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Ecological interaction and sediment transport on an intertidal mudflat, I; Evidence for a biologically mediated sediment-water interface

, : Ecological interaction and sediment transport on an intertidal mudflat, I; Evidence for a biologically mediated sediment-water interface. Geological Society Special Publications 139(Pages 135-148

Using biological, chemical and physical data, evidence of biologically mediated cohesive sediment dynamics is presented for an intertidal mudflat in the Humber Estuary, UK. The data suggest that in excess of 98% of sediment fluxes to the sediment bed on the mudflat are subject to resuspension, forming a bedload that is important in generating the shear stress required to erode the sediment bed. Benthic micro-algae photosynthesize and are grazed by macro-heterotrophs within this 300-3000 mu deep dynamic surface layer. The data suggest that the algal growth within this layer is limited by nitrogen fluxes, resulting in "excess" carbon fixation by photosynthesis. A significant positive relationship is apparent between "excess" carbon fixation rates and the sediment critical erosion stress. This indicates that nitrogen limitation and sediment stability were directly proportional to each other on the mudflat. Grazing of the algae by Macoma balthica (a burrowing bivalve) profoundly affects the carbon and nitrogen cycles in the dynamic surface layer, and hence also "excess" carbon fixation. We propose that a highly interdependent community of benthic algae, bacteria and macro-heterotrophs, acts to regulate sediment dynamics via small-scale, nitrogen cycling and the algal exudation of "excess" carbon as sediment-binding polymers.


DOI: 10.1144/gsl.sp.1998.139.01.11

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