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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Low-density particles as potential nitrogenous foods for benthos

  • Author(s): Mayer, Lawrence M;
  • Jumars, Peter A;
  • Taghon, Gary L;
  • Macko, Stephen A;
  • Trumbore, Susan
  • et al.

The demonstrated bias of both macrobenthos and fluids to mobilize low-density particles leads to their potential importance as nutritional materials in benthic systems. We fractionated sediments from three coastal regions into low- and high-density separates, and examined both their organic geochemical characteristics and effects on ingestion rates of a deposit feeder. The low-density separates were highly enriched in total organic matter relative to the high-density phases. Enzymatically hydrolyzable protein concentrations in low-density separates were as much as 57-fold higher than the corresponding high-density separates, though some samples from Puget Sound and the Mediterranean Sea showed no enrichment at all. Low-density phases without nutritional enrichments were usually composed of woody debris. In spite of the organic richness of the low-density phase, it makes up no more than a minor fraction of either total sedimentary organic matter or its nutritional component. Addition of anomalously high concentrations of low-density materials to sediments caused a deposit-feeding spionid polychaete to reduce ingestion rates.

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