Use of annular flumes to determine the influence of current velocity and bivalves on material flux at the sediment-water interface
A benthic annular flume for both laboratory and in situ deployment on intertidal mudflats is described. The flume provides a means of quantifying material flux (i.e., biodeposition of suspended particulates, sediment resuspension, nutrients, oxygen, and contaminants) across the sediment-water interface in relation to changes in current velocity and benthic community structure and/or population density of key macrofauna species. Flume experiments have investigated the impact of the infaunal bivalveMacoma balthica and the epifaunal bivalveMytilus edulis on seston and sediment flux at the sediment-water interface. The bioturbatorMacoma was found to increase the sediment resuspension and/or erodability by 4-fold, at densities similar to those recorded at the Skeffling mudflat (Humber estuary) (i.e., >1000 individuals m−2). There was a significant correlation between sediment resuspension andMacoma density (r=0.99; p<0.001), which supported previous in situ field observations indicating bioturbation byMacoma enhanced sediment erodability. Biodeposition rates (g m−2 h1) ofMytilus edulis andCerastoderma edule were quantified and related to changes in population density in a mussel bed (Cleethorpes, Humber estuary). Biodeposition rates were up to 40-times the natural sedimentation rates. At the highest mussel bed densities (i.e., 50–100% cover or >1400 mussels m−2) the physical presence of this epifaunal bivalve on the sediment surface reduced erosion by 10-fold. The shift from net biodeposition to net erosion occurred at current velocities of 20–25 cm s−1. These results demonstrate that infaunal and epifaunal bivalves can have a significant impact on seston flux or sediment deposition and on sediment resuspension or erodability in estuaries where there are extensive mudflats.
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