Effects of mussel (Perna canaliculus) biodeposit decomposition on benthic respiration and nutrient fluxes
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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. NH4+ 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 NH4+ release was significantly (P<0.001 to P=0.043) higher in the cores with biodeposit additions than in control cores.