Zhang W. & Wirtz K. (2017): Mutual dependence between sedimentary organic carbon and infaunal macrobenthos resolved by mechanistic modeling. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 122. DOI:10.1002/2017JG003909


The mutual dependence between sedimentary total organic carbon (TOC) and infaunal macrobenthos is here quantified by a mechanistic model. The model describes (i) the vertical distribution of infaunal macrobenthic biomass resulting from a trade-off between nutritional benefit (quantity and quality of TOC) and the costs of burial (respiration) and mortality, and (ii) the variable vertical distribution of TOC being in turn shaped by bioturbation of local macrobenthos. In contrast to conventional approaches, our model emphasizes variations of bioturbation both spatially and temporally depending on local food resources and macrobenthic biomass. Our implementation of the dynamic interaction between TOC and infaunal macrobenthos is able to capture a temporal benthic response to both depositional and erosional environments and provides improved estimates of the material exchange flux at the sediment-water interface. Applications to literature data for the North Sea demonstrate the robustness and accuracy of the model and its potential as an analysis tool for the status of TOC and macrobenthos in marine sediments. Results indicate that the vertical distribution of infaunal biomass is shaped by both the quantity and the quality of OC, while the community structure is determined only by the quality of OC. Bioturbation intensity may differ by one order of magnitude over different seasons owing to variations in the OC input, resulting in a significant modulation on the distribution of OC. Our relatively simple implementation may further improve models of early diagenesis and marine food-web dynamics by mechanistically connecting the vertical distribution of both TOC and macrobenthic biomass.

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