, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 55-73

Evaluation and application of dialysis porewater samplers for microbiological studies at sediment-water interfaces

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The equilibrium diffusion technique has become a valuable tool for ecological and biogeochemical studies in aquatic environments. In sediment ecosystems, changes in concentration of microbial metabolites with increasing depth can be determined dependably and reproducibly with this technique. Since the permeation characteristics of the membranes employed are crucial, selecting the proper membrane requires knowledge about its behavior under conditions which prevail in the natural environment. Thirteen polymer sheets were evaluated comparing permeation terms for biogeochemically relevant solutes, biodegradability, and mechanical strength. Cellulose-based dialysis membranes are most satisfactory when employed in low temperature anoxic environments. For this membrane, correction terms were calculated to account for diffusion losses during retrieval and sampling. Optimal incubation times can now be predicted from experimentally determined permeation coefficients for several porewater solutes. Dialysis porewater samplers (DPS) have been successfully applied during more than 100 independent experiments for the collection of interstitial water from surface sediments. DPS were used for water depths as deep as 290 meters.