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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 Jan 2019

Research article | 22 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS).

Relations of physical and biogenic reworking of sandy sediments in the southeastern North Sea

Knut Krämer1, Soeren Ahmerkamp2,1, Ulrike Schückel3, Moritz Holtappels4,2,1, and Christian Winter5 Knut Krämer et al.
  • 1MARUM – Zentrum für Marine Umweltwissenschaften, Universität Bremen, Leobener Str. 8, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 2Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie, Celsiusstrasse 1, D-28359 Bremen, Germany
  • 3Landesbetrieb für Küstenschutz, Nationalpark und Meeresschutz Schleswig-Holstein (LKN.SH), Schlossgarten 1, D-25832 Tönning, Germany
  • 4Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Am Alten Hafen 26, D-27568 Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 5Institut für Geowissenschaften, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Otto-Hahn-Platz 1, D-24118 Kiel, Germany

Abstract. The reworking of sandy sediments in shallow coastal and shelf seas is mainly driven by physical forcing in the form of wave- and current-induced shear stress. As an important habitat for benthic species seeking shelter and food, the upper seafloor is also marked by intense bioturbation. Although this reworking activity is recognized as an important mechanism for the exchange of particular matter and solutes between sediment and water column, quantifications and assessments of the relative importance of physical and biogenic reworking of subtidal shelf sediments are rare.

This work presents in situ measurements of volumetric reworking rates from six different locations in the southeastern North Sea. The investigated sites cover a range of water depths between 23 and 41 m, different magnitudes of physical (wave and current) forcing and sedimentological conditions as well as different habitats and benthic communities. The measured biogenic reworking rates reach up to 14 % of physically driven reworking via bedform migration.

Comparisons with physical quantities water depth, median grain size, bottom water temperature and flow velocity reveal good correlations and allow for an approximation of the biogenic reworking rate from a combination of these readily available oceanographic parameters.

The diffusive relocation of sediment by benthic fauna also influences the topography of small scale bedforms and may reduce their height by up to 10 % in a few hours during hydrodynamically inactive conditions.

The observations show that even in an energetic environment such as the southeastern North Sea, the benthic fauna contributes an important regulating ecosystem service by overturning upper seafloor sediments. This reworking mechanism becomes particularly important in areas and during periods of sub-threshold conditions for physically driven sediment reworking.

Knut Krämer et al.
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Knut Krämer et al.
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Short summary
The sandy seafloor in shelf seas is constantly overturned by waves and currents but also by a large number of animals searching for shelter and food. By taking a close look at the seafloor surface with the help of a laser scanner, this study evaluates their contribution to the overall reworking of sediment: It makes up as much as 14 % of the physically driven reworking. The activity of the organisms varies with the seasons and between different locations and can be estimated from physical values.
The sandy seafloor in shelf seas is constantly overturned by waves and currents but also by a...