Imaging oxygen distribution in Marine sediments. The importance of bioturbation and sediment heterogeneity

Acta Biotheoretica (forthcoming)
Abstract
The influence of sediment oxygen heterogeneity, due to bioturbation, on diffusive oxygen flux was investigated. Laboratory experiments were carried out with 3 macrobenthic species presenting different bioturbation behaviour patterns: the polychaetes Nereis diversicolor and Nereis virens, both constructing ventilated galleries in the sediment column, and the gastropod Cyclope neritea, a burrowing species which does not build any structure. Oxygen two-dimensional distribution in sediments was quantified by means of the optical planar optode technique. Diffusive oxygen fluxes (mean and integrated) and a variability index were calculated on the captured oxygen images. All species increased sediment oxygen heterogeneity compared to the controls without animals. This was particularly noticeable with the polychaetes because of the construction of more or less complex burrows. Integrated diffusive oxygen flux increased with oxygen heterogeneity due to the production of interface available for solute exchanges between overlying water and sediments. This work shows that sediment heterogeneity is an important feature of the control of oxygen exchanges at the sediment–water interface.
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