Marine Biology

, Volume 150, Issue 2, pp 261–271 | Cite as

Effects of mussel (Perna canaliculus) biodeposit decomposition on benthic respiration and nutrient fluxes

  • Hilke GilesEmail author
  • Conrad A. Pilditch
Research Article


Suspension-feeding bivalves increase the quantity and quality of sedimenting organic matter through the production of faeces and pseudofaeces that are remineralised in coastal sediments and thus increase sediment oxygen demand and nutrient regeneration. Bivalves are intensively cultivated worldwide; however, no bivalve biodeposit decay rates are available to parameterise models describing the environmental effects of bivalve culture. We examined sediment biogeochemical changes as bivalve biodeposits age by incubating coastal sediments to which we added fresh mussel (Perna canaliculus) biodeposits and measured O2 and nutrient fluxes as well as sediment characteristics over an 11-day period. Biodeposits elevated organic matter, chlorophyll a, phaeophytin a, organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations in the surface sediments. Sediment oxygen consumption (SOC) increased significantly (P=0.016) by ∼1.5 times to 1,010 μmol m−2 h−1 immediately after biodeposit addition and remained elevated compared to control cores without additions for the incubation period. This increase is in the range of observed in situ oxygen demand enhancements under mussel farms. To calculate a decay rate for biodeposits in sediments we fitted a first-order G model to the observed increase in SOC. The significant model fit (P=0.001, r2=0.72) generated a decay rate of 0.16 day−1 (P=0.033, SE=0.05) that corresponds to a half-life time of 4.3 day. This decay rate is 1–2 orders of magnitude higher than published decay rates of coastal sediments without organic enrichment but similar to rates of decaying zooplankton faecal pellets. NH 4 + release increased rapidly on the day of biodeposit addition (P=0.013) and reached a maximum of 144 μmol m−2 h−1 after 5 days which was 3.6 times higher compared to control cores. During this period NH 4 + release was significantly (P<0.001 to P=0.043) higher in the cores with biodeposit additions than in control cores.


Decay Rate Faecal Pellet Nutrient Flux Coastal Sediment Sediment Oxygen Demand 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank D. Bell for help in the field and D. and M. Aislabe for access to their mussel farm. We also thank K. Vopel for suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript. A University of Waikato postgraduate scholarship funded the first author; this is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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