Macrobenthic Activity and its Effects on Biogeochemical Reactions and Fluxes

  • R. R. HaeseEmail author


The impact of macrobenthic activity on the geochemistry of surface sediments is reviewed to provide conceptual insights on animal-sediment relations for benthic ecologists, paleoceanographers applying paleo-redox proxies and geochemists interested in the broad area of early diagenesis. It is pointed out that conceptual models for the geochemical implications of macrobenthic activity are relatively well understood but that quantitative approaches are largely lacking. Consequently, particular attention is directed to in situ and ex situ methods to derive rates of macrobenthic activity. From this literature study it becomes clear that benthic fauna studies and geochemical studies have rarely been integrated. However, this is essential to fully understand the impact of the temporal and spatial variable benthic assemblages on important issues such as organic matter mineralization and metal mobilization in ocean margin sediments. The effects of macrobenthic activity are highly diverse and concern dissolved and solid phase distributions. With respect to nutrient cycling and organic matter mineralization the most important effects arise from bioirrigation. Burrows and tubes are flushed with oxic bottom water which increases the total surface area for aerobic respiration, nitrification and denitrification. In addition, active pumping increases the efflux of dissolved species and creates radial diffusion which is not accounted for when fluxes are quantified from (vertical) pore water profiles by means of molecular diffusion. Since metal diagenesis is ultimately related to solid phase redistributions, e.g. across redox boundaries, bioturbation plays an important role. The depth distribution of bioturbatory activity depends on the feeding strategy of the prevailing fauna which varies significantly.


Bottom Water Diffusive Flux Cold Seep Anaerobic Methane Oxidation Biogeochemical Reaction 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aller RC (1982) The effects of macrobenthos on chemical properties ofmarine sediment and overlying water, In: McCall PL, Tevesz MJS (eds) Animal-Sediment Relations: The Alteration of Sediments. Plenum Press Inc, New York, pp 53–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aller RC (1983) The importance of the diffusive permeability of animal burrow linings in determinig marine sediment chemistry. J Mar Res 41:299–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aller RC (1988) Benthic fauna and biogeochemical processes in marine sediments: The role of burrow structures. In: Blackburn TH, Sørensen J (eds) Nitrogen Cycling in Coastal Marine Environments (SCOPE), Wiley Press Inc, Chichester, pp 301–338Google Scholar
  4. Aller RC (1990) Bioturbation and manganese cycling in hemipelagic sediments. Phil Trans R Soc Lond 331: 51–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aller JY, Aller RC (1986) Evidence for localized enhancement of biological activity associated with tube and burrow structures in deep-sea sediments at the HEBBLE site, western North Altantic. DeepSea Res 33:755–790CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aller RC, Aller JY (1998) The effect of biogenic irrigation intensity and solute exchange on diagenetic reaction rates in marine sediments. J Mar Res 56:905936Google Scholar
  7. Aller RC, Hall POJ, Rude PD, Aller JY (1998) Biogeochemical heterogeneity and subsurface diagenesis in hemipelagic sediments of the Panama Basin. Deep-Sea Res (I) 45:133–165Google Scholar
  8. Archer D, Devol A (1992) Benthic oxygen fluxes on the Washington shelf and slope: A comparison of in situ microelectrode and chamber flux measurements. Limnol Oceanogr 37:614–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boudreau BP (1986) Mathematics of tracer mixing in sediments: II. Nonlocal mixing and biological conveyer-belt phenomena. Am J Sci 286:199–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Canfield DE, Jørgensen BB, Fossing H, Glud R, Gundersen J, Ramsing NB, Thamdrup B, Hansen JW, Nielsen LP, Hall POJ (1993) Pathways of organic carbon oxidation in three continental margin sediments. Mar Geol 113:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chartarpaul L., Robinson JB, Kaushik NK (1980) Effects of tubificid worms on denitrification and nitrification in stream sediments. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:656–663CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clavero V, Niell FX, Fernandez JA (1991) Effects of Nereis diversicolor O.F. Muller abundance on the dissolved phosphate exchange between sediment and overlying water in Palmones River estuary. Est Coast Shelf Sci 33:193–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Forster S, Graf G, Kitlar J, Powilleit M (1995) Effects of bioturbation in oxic and hypoxic conditions: A microcosm experiment with North Sea sediment community. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 116:153–161CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Furukawa Y, Bentley SJ, Shiller SJ, Lavoie DL, Van Cappellen P (2000) The role of biologically-enhanced pore water transport in early diagenesis: An example from carbonate sediments in the vicinity of North Key Harbor, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida. J Mar Res 58:493–522CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gerino M, Aller RC, Lee C, Cochran JK, Aller JY, Green MA, Hirschberg D (1998) Comparison of different tracers and methods used to quantify bioturbation during a spring bloom: 234-thorium, luminophores and chlorophyll-a. Est Coast Shelf Sci 46:531–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glud RN, Gundersen JK, Jørgensen BB, Revsbech NP, Schulz HD (1994) Diffusive and total oxygen uptake of deep-sea sediments in the eastern South Atlantic Ocean: in situ and laboratory measurements. DeepSea Res (I) 41:1767–1788CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Graf G (1999) Do benthic animals control the particulate exchange between bioturbated sediments and benthic turbidity zones? In: Gray JS, Ambrosa W Jr, Szaniawska A (eds) Biogeochemical Cycling and Sediment Ecology. Kluwer BV, Deventer, pp 153–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Haese RR (2000) The reactivity of iron, In: Schulz HD, Zabel M (eds) Marine Geochemistry. Springer, Berlin pp 233–261CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hargrave BT, Phillips GA (1977) Oxygen uptake of micro-bial communities on solid surfaces. In: Cairus J (ed) Aquatic Microbial Communities. Garland Press Inc, New York, pp 545–587Google Scholar
  20. Herman PMJ, Middelburg JJ, Van de Koppel J, Heip CHR (1999) Ecology of estuarine macrobenthos. Adv Ecol Res 29:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Huettel M, Gust G (1992) Impact of bioroughness on interfacial solute exchange in permeable sediments. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 89:253–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huettel M, Ziebis W, Forster S, Luther GW III (1998) Adective transport affecting metal and nutrient distributions and interfacial fluxes in permeable sediments. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 62:613–631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Ingall ED, Bustin RM, Van Cappellen P (1993) Influence of water column anoxia on the burial and preservation of carbon and phosphorous in marine shales. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 57:303–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jørgensen BB (1977) Bacterial sulfate reduction within reduced microniches of oxidized marine sediments. Mar Biol 41:7–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jørgensen BB, Bak F (1991) Pathways and microbiology of thiosulfate transformations and sulfate reduction in a marine sediment (Kattegat, Denmark). Appl Environ Microbiol 57:847–856Google Scholar
  26. Kristensen E (1988) Benthic fauna and biogeochemical processes in marine sediments: Microbial activities and fluxes, In: Blackburn TH, Sørensen J (eds) Nitrogen Cycling in Coastal Marine Environments. (SCOPE), pp 275–299Google Scholar
  27. Kulm LD, Suess E, Moore JC, Carson B, Lewis BT, Ritger SD, Kadko DC, Thornburg TM, Embley RW, Rugh WD, Massoth GJ, Langseth MG, Cochrane GR, Scamman RL (1986) Oregon subduction zone: Venting, fauna, and carbonates. Science 231:561–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mahaut M-L, Graf G (1987) A luminophore tracer technique for bioturbation studies. Oceanol Acta 10: 323–328Google Scholar
  29. Martin WR, Banta GT (1992) The measurement of sediment irrigation rates: A comparison of Br- tracer and 222Rn/226Ra disequilibrium techniques. J Mar Res 50:125–154CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Matisoff G (1995) Effects of bioturbation on solute and particle transport in sediments. In: Allen HE (ed) Metal Contaminated Aquatic Systems. Ann Arbor Press Inc, Ann Arbor, pp 202–272Google Scholar
  31. Matisoff G, Fisher JB, Matis S (1985) Effects of benthic macroinvertebrates on the exchange of solutes between sediments and freshwater. Hydrobiol 122:19–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mayer MS, Schaffner L, Kemp WM (1995) Nitrification potentials of benthic macrofaunal tubes and burrow walls: effects of sediment NH4+ and animal irrigation behavior. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 121:157–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McCall PL, Matisoff G, Tevesz MJS (1986) The effects of a unionid bivalve on the physical, chemical, and microbial properties of cohesive sediments from Lake Erie. Am J Sci 286:127–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Meile C, Koretsky CM, Van Cappellen P (2001) Quantifying bioirrigation in aquatic sediments: An inverse modeling approach. Limnol Oceanogr 46: 164–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nittrouer CA, DeMaster DJ, McKee BA, Cutshall NH, Larsen IL (1983) The effect of sediment mixing on Pb-210 accumultion rates for the Washington continentel shelf. Mar Geo154:201–221Google Scholar
  36. Officer CB, Lynch DR (1982) Interpretation procedures for the determination of sediment parameters from time-dependent flux inputs. Earth Planet Sci Left 61: 55–62Google Scholar
  37. Pearson TH (in press) Functional group ecology in soft sediment marine benthos: the role of bioturbation. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An annual reviewGoogle Scholar
  38. Rabouille C, Gaillard J-F, Tréguer P, Vincendeau M-A (1997) Biogenic silica recycling in surficial sediments across the Polar Front of the Southern Ocean (Indian Sector). Deep-Sea Res (II) 44: 1151–1176Google Scholar
  39. Rachor E, Bartel S (1981) Occurrence and ecological significance of the spoon-worm Echiurus echiurus in the German Bight. Veröfflnst Meeresforsch Bremerh 19:71–88Google Scholar
  40. Rhoads DC, McCall PL, Yingst JY (1978) Disturbance and production on the estuarine seafloor. Am Sci 66:577–586Google Scholar
  41. Sibuet M, Olu-Le Roy K (2002) Cold seep communities on continental margins: Structure and quantitative distribution relative to geological and fluid venting patterns. In: Wefer et al. (eds) Ocean Margin Systems. Springer, Berlin pp 235–251Google Scholar
  42. Soetaert K, Herman PMJ, Middelburg JJ, Heip C, de Stigter HS, van Weering TCE, Epping E, Helder W (1996) Modeling 210Pb-derived mixing activity in ocean margin sediments: Diffusive versus nonlocal mixing. J Mar Res 54:1207–1227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sun M, Aller RC, Lee C (1991) Early diagenesis of chlorophyll-a in Long Island Sound sediments: A measure of carbon flux and particle reworking. J Mar Res 49:379–401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sun M-Y, Lee C, Aller RC (1993) Laboratory studies of oxic and anoxic degradation of chlorophyll-a in Long Island Sound sediments. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 57:147–157CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sundby B, Anderson LG, Hall POJ, Iverfeldt Ǻ, Rutgers van der Loeff MM, Westerlund SFG (1986) The effect of oxygen on release and uptake of cobalt, manganese, iron and phosphate at the sediment-water interface. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 50:1281–1288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sundby B, Vale C, Caçador I, Catarino F, Madureira MJ, Catarino M (1998) Metal-rich concretions on the roots of salt marsh plants: mechanism and rate of formation. Limnol Oceanogr 43:245–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wallmann K, Linke P, Suess E, Bohrmann G, Sahling H, Schlüter M, Dählmann A, Lammers S, Greinert J, von Mirbach N(1997) Quantifying fluid flow, solute mixing, and biogeochemical turnover at cold vents of the eastern Aleutian subduction zone. Geochim Cosmochim Acta 61:5209–5219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang F, Chapman PM (1999) Biological implications of sulfide in sediment — A review focusing on sediment toxicity. Env Toxic Chem 18:1526–2532Google Scholar
  49. Ziebis W, Forster S, Huettel M, Jørgensen BB (1996) Complex burrows of the mud shrimp Callianassa truncata and their geochemical impact in the sea bed. Nature 382:619–622CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Earth SciencesUniversity of UtrechtUtrechtThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations