, Volume 156, Issue 11, pp 2277-2287,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 18 Jul 2009

Seafloor ecosystem functioning: the importance of organic matter priming


Organic matter (OM) remineralization may be considered a key function of the benthic compartment of marine ecosystems and in this study we investigated if the input of labile organic carbon alters mineralization of indigenous sediment OM (OM priming). Using 13C-enriched diatoms as labile tracer carbon, we examined shallow-water sediments (surface and subsurface layers) containing organic carbon of different reactivity under oxic versus anoxic conditions. The background OM decomposition rates of the sediment used ranged from 0.08 to 0.44 μmol C ml ws −1  day−1. Algal OM additions induced enhanced levels of background remineralization (priming) up to 31% and these measured excess fluxes were similar to mineralization of the added highly degradable tracer algal carbon. This suggests that OM priming may be important in marine sediments.