Jackson Estuarine Laboratory

Microbial biogeochemistry and bioturbation in the sediments of Great Bay, New Hampshire


The influence of bioturbation on certain aspects of the biogeochemistry of sulfur and iron was examined in shallow-water sediments of Great Bay Estuary, New Hampshire. A bioturbated (JEL) and non-bioturbated (SQUAM) site were compared. Annual sulfate reduction measured with 35S, was ∼4·5 times more rapid at JEL. A significant portion of this difference was attributed to rapid rates which occurred throughout the upper 12 cm of sediment at JEL due to infaunal reworking activities. Sulfate reduction decreased rapidly with depth at SQUAM. FeS in the upper 2 cm at JEL increased in concentration from 3 to 45 μmol ml−1 from early May to late July while only increasing from 3 to 8 μmol ml−1 at SQUAM. Infaunal irrigation and reworking activities caused rapid and continous subsurface cycling of iron and sulfur at JEL. This maintained dissolved iron concentrations at 160–170 μM throughout the summer despite rapid sulfide production. Therefore, dissolved sulfide never accumulated in JEL pore waters. Although dissolved organic carbon (DOC) was generated during sulfate reduction, bioturbation during summer caused a net removal of DOC from JEL pore waters. Sulfate reduction rates, decomposition stoichiometry and nutrient concentrations were used to calculate turnover times of nutrients in pore waters. Nutrient turnover varied temporally and increased three-to five-fold during bioturbation. A secondary maximum in the abundance of recoverable sulfate-reducing bacteria occurred at 10 cm in JEL sediments only during periods of active bioturbation, demonstrating the influence of macrofaunal activities on bacterial distributions.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science

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Copyright © 1985 Published by Elsevier Ltd.