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The influence of bioturbation and water column oxygenation on nutrient recycling in reservoir sediments


Sediments are sinks of nutrients in reservoirs, but may also act as temporary nutrient sources to the water column, leading to eutrophication during the warm season. Several abiotic and biotic factors at the water–sediment interface are known to influence the role of sediments as temporary nutrient sources. This study aimed at quantifying the effects of two factors (i.e., oxygenation and bioturbation) on fluxes of nutrients from the water–sediment interface of the reservoir. An experimental approach was developed in the laboratory to test three fauna conditions (no fauna, presence of tubificid worms, and chironomids larvae) and three conditions of water column oxygenation (aerobic, fluctuating, and anaerobic conditions). Chironomid larvae significantly increased concentrations of N (NH4+ + NO3) and PO43− released from sediments by 3.7-fold and by 17-fold, whereas tubificid worms had a lesser effect (twofold for N and threefold for PO43−). Anaerobic conditions increased N by 56-fold and PO43− by 102-fold compared to the aerobic treatment. Thus, anaerobic conditions produced greater N and P fluxes than fauna. Nevertheless, fauna and anoxic conditions at the water–sediment interface should not be neglected when quantifying the role of sediments on nutrient dynamics in lakes and reservoirs.

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The authors thank the ANRT (Association Nationale Recherche Technologie) and EDF (Electricité de France) for Edwige Gautreau’s Ph.D. Grant (convention bourse CIFRE- EDF: No. 0733/2016). This study was funded by a partnership between EDF and CNRS (CNRS No. 149389) and by Lyon Metropole though the equipment acquisition on Sedaqua Platform (Contrat Plan Etat Région). This work was performed within the framework of the EUR H2O’Lyon (ANR-17-EURE-0018) of Université de Lyon (UdL), within the program “Investissements d’Avenir” operated by the French National Research Agency (ANR). We are grateful to Félix Vallier, Athos Environnement (Antoine Thouvenot, David Foltier, and Benjamin Legrand), Pierre Rossignol, Laurent Simon, Michel Lafont, and Pierre Marmonier for their support and advice during field and laboratory work. We also wish to thank Jörg Lewandowski and one anonymous referee for their pertinent comments which significantly improved a previous draft of this manuscript.


This study was funded by the partnership EDF-CNRS (CNRS no. 149389) and Lyon Metropole within the framework of Sedaqua Platform (Contrat Plan Etat Région).

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Correspondence to Edwige Gautreau.

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Gautreau, E., Volatier, L., Nogaro, G. et al. The influence of bioturbation and water column oxygenation on nutrient recycling in reservoir sediments. Hydrobiologia 847, 1027–1040 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-019-04166-0

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  • Water–sediment interface
  • Aerobic/anaerobic conditions
  • Chironomid larvae
  • Tubificid worms
  • Fauna activity
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus