, Volume 82, Issue 1, pp 41–53 | Cite as

Dynamics of biogenic Si in freshwater tidal marshes: Si regeneration and retention in marsh sediments (Scheldt estuary)

  • Eric StruyfEmail author
  • Stijn Temmerman
  • Patrick Meire
Original Paper


The sequestration and recycling of biogenic silica (BSi) in freshwater tidal marshes was modelled through the combination of short-term year round sediment trap data with a long-term sedimentation model, MARSED. The modelling was implemented through the complete evolution from a young rapidly rising marsh to a marsh with an elevation close to mean high water. BSi in imported suspended matter was higher in summer (10.9 mg BSi g−1 sediment) than winter (7.6 mg BSi g−1 sediment). However, the deposition of BSi on the marsh surface was higher in winter compared to summer, due to the higher sedimentation rates. Deposition of BSi was correlated to the suspended matter deposition. In the old marsh, yearly about 40 g BSi m−2 was deposited, while in the young marsh deposition could rise up to 300 g m−2. Young marshes retained up to 85% of the imported biogenic silica. Recycling efficiency (60%) increased drastically for older marshes. The study shows that marshes act as important sinks for BSi along estuaries. The recycling of the imported BSi to DSi in summer and spring is most likely an essential factor in the buffering role of tidal marshes for estuarine DSi concentrations.


Biogenic silica dynamics Numerical modelling Freshwater tidal marshes Scheldt estuary 



L. Clement and E. De Bruyn analysed samples in the “UA, University of Antwerp, Department of Biology, Testing Laboratory for Chemical Water Quality”. We would like to thank them for their continuous dedication. Special thanks to IWT (Institute for Promotion of Innovation through Science and Technology, Flanders) for scientific project funding (project number 13263 “The role of freshwater marshes in the estuarine silica cycle”) and to FWO-NWO (Fund for Scientific research, Flanders, The Netherlands) for funding project n° 832.11.004 (“The role of freshwater marshes in the retention and transformation of nitrogen in estuaries, a whole ecosystem labeling study”). We would further like to thank FWO for funding the Scientific Community ‘Ecological characterization of European estuaries, with emphasis on the Schelde estuary’ (project nr. W 10/5-CVW.D 13.816). Thanks to Jack Middelburg, Hans Backx, Tom Maris and Kris Bal for their constructive reviews. NIOO-KNAW publication number 3900.


  1. Adam P (2002) Saltmarshes in a time of change. Environ Conserv 29:39–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen JRL, Rae JE (1988) Vertical salt-marsh accretion since the Roman Period in the Severn Estuary, southwest Britain. Mar Geol 83:225–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allen JRL (1997) Simulation models of salt-marsh morphodynamics:some implications for high-intertidal sediment couplets related to sea-level change. Sediment Geol 113:211–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asmus RM, Sprung M, Asmu H (2000) Nutrient fluxes in intertidal communities of a South European lagoon (Ria Formosa)–similarities and differences with a northern Wadden Sea bay (Sylt-Romo Bay). Hydrobiologia 436:217–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bartoli F (1983) The biogeochemical cycle of silicon in two temperate forest ecosystems. Ecol Bull 35:469–476Google Scholar
  6. Conley DJ, Malone TC (1992) Annual cycle of dissolved silicate in Chesapeake Bay:implications for the production and fate of phytoplankton biomass. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 81:121–128Google Scholar
  7. Conley DJ, Schelske CL, Stoermer EF (1993) Modification of the biogeochemical cycle of silica with eutrophication. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 101:179–192Google Scholar
  8. Conley DJ (1997) Riverine contribution of biogenic silica to the oceanic silica budget. Limnol Oceanogr 42:774–777Google Scholar
  9. Conley DJ (2002) Terrestrial ecosystems and the global biogeochemical silica cycle. Global Biogeochem Cycles 16:1121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. DeMaster DJ (1981) The supply and accumulation of silica in the marine environment. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 45:1715–1732CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Derry LA, Kurtz AC, Ziegler K, Chadwick OA (2005) Biological control of terrestrial silica cycling and export fluxes to watersheds. Nature 433:728–731CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. French JR (1993) Numerical simulation of vertical marsh growth and adjustment to accelerated sea-level rise, north Norfolk, UK. Earth Surf Process Landf 18:63–81CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garnier J, Billen G, Coste M (1995) Seasonal succession of diatoms and Chlorophycaea in the drainage network of the Seine River: observations and modelling. Limnol Oceanogr 40:750–765Google Scholar
  14. Gazeau F, Smith SV, Gentili B, Frankignoulle M, Gattuso J (2004) The European Coastal Zone: characterization and first assessment of ecosystem metabolism. Est Coast Shelf Sci 60:673–694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hackney CT, Cahoon LB, Prestos C, Norris A (2000) Silicon is the link between tidal marshes and estuarine fisheries:a new paradigm. In: Weinstein MP, Kreeger DA (eds) Concepts and controversies in tidal marsh ecology. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Boston, London, pp 543–552Google Scholar
  16. Heip C (1988) Biota and abiotic environments in the Westerschelde estuary. Hydrobiol Bull 22:31–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Krone RB (1987) A method for simulating historic marsh elevations. In: Kraus NC (eds) Coastal sediments ’87. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, pp 316–323Google Scholar
  18. Lancelot C (1995) The mucilage phenomenon in the continental coastal waters of the North-Sea. Sci Total Environ 165:83–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Meire P, Ysebaert T, Van Damme S, Van den Bergh E, Maris T, Struyf E (2005) The Scheldt estuary from past to future: a description of a changing ecosystem. Hydrobiologia 540:1–11CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mortimer RJG, Krom MD, Watson PG, Frickers PE, Davey JT, Clifton RJ (1998) Sediment-water exchange of nutrients in the intertidal zone of the Humber estuary, UK. Mar Pollut Bull 37:261–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Muylaert K, Van Wichelen J, Sabbe K, Vyverman W (2001). Effects of freshets on phytoplankton dynamics in a freshwater tidal estuary (Schelde, Belgium). Arch Hydrobiol 150:269–288Google Scholar
  22. Norris AR, Hackney CT (1999) Silica content of a mesohaline tidal marsh in North Carolina. Est Coast Shelf Sci 49:597–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Orson RA, Warren RS, Niering WA (1998) Interpreting sea-level rise and rates of vertical marsh accretion in a southern New England tidal salt marsh. Est Coast Shelf Sci 47:419–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Runge F (1999) The opal phytolith inventory of soils in central Africa—Quantities, shapes, classification and spectra. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 107:23–53CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Saccone L, Conley DJ, Sauer D (2006) Methodologies for amorphous silica analysis. Journal Geochem. Explor 88(1–3):235–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Schelske CL, Stoermer EF, Conley DJ, Robbins JA, Glover RM (1983) Early eutrophication in the lower Great Lakes:new evidence from biogenic silica in sediments. Science 222:320–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Shi Z (1993) Recent saltmarsh accretion and sea-level fluctuations in the Dyfi Estuary, central Cardigan Bay, Wales, UK. Geo-Mar Lett 13:182–188CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Smayda TJ (1997) Bloom dynamics: physiology, behavior, tropic effects. Limnol Oceanogr 42:1132–1136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Soetaert K, Middelburg JJ, Meire P, Van Damme S, Maris T (2006) Long-term change in dissolved organic nutrients in the heterotrophic Scheldt estuary (Belgium, the Netherlands). Limnol Oceanogr 51(1):409–423Google Scholar
  30. Struyf E, Van Damme S and Meire P (2004) Possible effects of climate change on estuarine nutrient fluxes: a case study in the highly nutrified Schelde estuary (Belgium, The Netherlands). Est Coast Shelf Sci 60:649–661Google Scholar
  31. Struyf E, Van Damme S, Gribsholt B, Meire P (2005a) Freshwater marshes as dissolved silica recyclers in an estuarine environment. Hydrobiologia 540:69–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Struyf E, Van Damme S, Gribsholt B, Middelburg JJ, Meire P (2005b) Biogenic silica in freshwater marsh sediments and vegetation. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 303:51–60Google Scholar
  33. Struyf E, Dausse A, Van Damme S, Bal K, Gribsholt B, Boschker HTS, Middelburg JJ, Meire P (2006) Tidal marshes and biogenic silica recycling at the land-sea interface. Limnol Oceanogr 51:838–846CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Temmerman S, Govers G, Meire P, Wartel S (2003a) Modelling long-term tidal marsh growth under changing tidal conditions and suspended sediment concentrations, Scheldt estuary, Belgium. Mar Geol 193:151–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Temmerman S, Govers G, Wartel S, Meire P (2003b) Spatial and temporal factors controlling short-term sedimentation in a salt and freshwater tidal marsh, Scheldt estuary, Belgium, SW Netherlands. Earth Surf Process Landf 28:739–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Temmerman S, Govers G, Wartel S, Meire P (2004) Modelling estuarine variations in tidal marsh sedimentation: response to changing sea level and suspended sediment concentrations. Mar Geol 212:1–19CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Van Damme S, Struyf E, Maris T, Ysebaert T, Dehairs F, Tackx M, Heip C, Meire P (2005) Spatial and temporal patterns of water quality along the estuarine salinity gradient of the Scheldt estuary (Belgium and The Netherlands): results of an integrated monitoring approach. Hydrobiologia 540:29–45Google Scholar
  38. Van Wijnen HJ, Bakker JP (2001) Long-term surface elevation change in salt-marshes: a prediction of marsh response to future sea-level rise. Est Coast Shelf Sci 52:381–390CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yamada SY, D’Elia CF (1984) Silicic acid regeneration from estuarine sediment cores. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 18:113–118Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology, Ecosystem Management Research GroupUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Biology, Research Group Polar Ecology, Limnology and PaleobiologyUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium
  3. 3.Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Estuarine and Marine EcologyYersekeThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations