Erodibility of a mixed mudflat dominated by microphytobenthos and Cerastoderma edule, East Frisian Wadden Sea, Germany

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Sediment erodibility and a range of physical and biological parameters were measured at an intertidal site in the German Wadden Sea area in June, September and November 2002 and February and April 2003 in order to examine the influence of macrozoobenthos and microphytobenthos on sediment erodibility and the temporal variation. The study site was a mixed mudflat situated in the mesotidal Baltrum-Langeoog tidal basin at the East Frisian barrier coast. The mud content at the site was about 35% and the filter-feeding cockle Cerastoderma edule was the dominating macrozoobenthic species (by biomass). The erodibility of the sediment showed strong temporal variation with high erosion thresholds in spring and late summer and significantly lower thresholds during the rest of the study period. The erosion thresholds were strongly dependent on the contents of chlorophyll a (chl a) and colloidal carbohydrates, both indicators of the content of microphytobenthos, in this environment primarily benthic diatoms. The content of microphytobenthos was high in September 2002 and April 2003, and regression analysis indicated that this was the only likely reason for the low erodibility found at these times. A biostabilisation index of about 4.5 was found for a situation with both abundant biofilms and cockles.

A direct influence of Cerastoderma edule on erodibility was not observed, in contrast to other recent studies. The presence of C. edule at the site results in biodeposition of fine-grained material and the presence of C. edule will therefore probably increase the content of fine-grained sediments at the surface compared to an abiotic situation. Increasing the amount of fine-grained material in mixed sediments has previously been shown to reduce the erodibility of the sediments and C. edule will therefore in this way indirectly stabilize the bed. However, although C. edule may constitute the main part of the biomass at some intertidal sites, other and more vigorous bioturbators and deposit-feeding species (e.g., the bivalve Macoma balthica, the gastropod Hydrobia ulvae or the amphipod Corophium volutator) may completely hide its effect on sediment erodibility if these species are present in high numbers.

Udgivelsesdato: April
Original languageEnglish
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)197-206
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2010

ID: 15893881