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Fate of contaminants in Baltic Sea sediments: role of bioturbation and settling organic matter
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
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2008 (English)In: Marine Ecology Progress Series, ISSN 0171-8630, E-ISSN 1616-1599, Vol. 356, 25-38 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This experimental study examined the interactive effects of bioturbation and settling organic matter (OM) on the fate (burial and remobilisation) of 2 surface-deposited contaminants in Baltic Sea sediment: the metal Cd and a hydrophobic organic pollutant, the flame retardant BDE-99. Three macrofaunal species with diverse feeding and bioturbation strategies were used: the amphipod Monoporeia affinis, the clam Macoma balthica and the polychaete Marenzelleria spp. Radiolabelled contaminants were added to the sediment surface in association with 3 different OM types: (1) phytoplankton, (2) terrestrial lignin and (3) Baltic sediment. Bioturbation by all species increased the retention of both contaminants in the sediment, most effectively M. affinis and M. balthica. A decoupled transport of Cd and BDE-99 by Marenzelleria was observed. Generally, Marenzelleria buried the highest amount of Cd into the sediment but also caused the highest remobilisation to the water, indicating an effective transport of (soluble) Cd over the sediment-water interface via bio-irrigation. Lack of the highly hydrophobic and mainly particle-associated BDE-99 below the sediment surface suggests that Marenzelleria caused no significant particle mixing. The addition of various OM types significantly affected the distribution of Cd, but not of BDE-99. There was an interactive effect between bioturbation (species) and OM type, generally showing an increased burial and release of Cd when associated with phytoplankton in the presence of Marenzelleria. Our results emphasise the importance of understanding the complex interactions between ecological (e.g. infaunal feeding and bioturbation activities) and physiochemical processes (contaminant speciation and sorption kinetics) when assessing the fate of contaminants in aquatic ecosystems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 356, 25-38 p.
Keyword [en]
Cadmium, BDE-99, HOC, POP, Flame retardant, Marenzelleria spp., Macoma balthica, Monoporeia affinis, Remobilisation
National Category
Biological Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-25621DOI: 10.3354/meps07218OAI: diva2:200068
Available from: 2008-11-20 Created: 2008-11-14 Last updated: 2012-02-13Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Fate of contaminants in Baltic Sea sediment ecosystems : the role of bioturbation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Fate of contaminants in Baltic Sea sediment ecosystems : the role of bioturbation
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Aquatic sediments are of major importance for the cycling of environmental pollutants, acting as both sinks and secondary sources of contaminants to the ecosystem. Sediment-living organisms can affect the fate and transport of contaminants through activities like feeding and burrowing, collectively called bioturbation. Apart from high contaminant levels, the Baltic benthic ecosystem is affected by stressors such as eutrophication-induced anoxic conditions and invading alien species. The main objectives of this thesis were to determine the effects of bioturbation on contaminant fluxes in Baltic Sea sediments and to increase the understanding of how these other stressors act together upon contaminant fate in the benthic ecosystem.

Bioturbation affected contaminants in a species-specific way. The native species Monoporeia affinis and Macoma balthica increased the incorporation of BDE-99 and Cd deposited on the sediment surface, enhancing their retention in the sediment. The invasive polychaete Marenzelleria sp. did not contribute to the incorporation of surface-deposited contaminants, however, significantly increased the release of contaminants back to the water column. Reoxygenation of anoxic laminated sediments and bioturbation by Marenzelleria increased the sediment-to-water flux of dissolved organic contaminants. When the bioturbation-driven release of PCB was compared to the release caused by physical sediment resuspension, results indicated that the continuous activities of benthic infauna can be just as, or even more, important than physical disturbance for the remobilization of sediment-bound contaminants. Bioaccumulation was significantly higher when contaminants were deposited associated to phytoplankton compared to lignin or sediment, suggesting that there are likely seasonal differences in the mobilization of contaminants in the benthic ecosystem.

In summary, bioturbation is an important process influencing contaminant fate in Baltic Sea sediments, and the risk of remobilization of historically buried contaminants may increase with improved benthic redox conditions and the invasion of new deeper-digging species, such as Marenzelleria.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Systemekologiska institutionen, 2008. 37 p.
Toxicology, Toxikologi
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Marine Ecotoxicology
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8315 (URN)978-91-7155-775-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2008-12-12, sal G, Arrheniuslaboratorierna, Svante Arrhenius väg 14-18, Stockholm, 09:00
Available from: 2008-11-20 Created: 2008-11-14 Last updated: 2012-05-25Bibliographically approved

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Gunnarsson, Jonas S.
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