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Journal Article

Enhanced exoenzyme activities in sediments in the presence of deposit-feeding Chironomus riparius larvae


Stief,  P.
Permanent Research Group Microsensor, Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Max Planck Society;

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Stief, P. (2007). Enhanced exoenzyme activities in sediments in the presence of deposit-feeding Chironomus riparius larvae. Freshwater Biology, 52(9), 1807-1819.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-CE08-F
1. The combined effects of deposit‐feeding, bioturbation and bioirrigation by benthic macrofauna on the enzymatic hydrolysis of organic matter were studied in microcosms. Chironomus riparius larvae (Insecta, Diptera) served as model macrofauna and stinging nettle leaves (Urtica dioica) were used as a detrital food source. 2. In the upper 10 mm of the sediment (the habitat of C. riparius larvae), the activities of several exoenzymes, the contents of several fractions of particulate organic matter (POM), and the concentrations of dissolved oxidants (O2, NOinline image) were measured on a small scale. Fluorescent particles (luminophores) were used to quantify the vertical redistribution of particles within the same layer. 3. In control sediment, the addition of detrital food enhanced exoenzyme activities in the 0–2 mm layer only. In the presence of C. riparius larvae, exoenzyme activities increased to 10 mm depth. Further, the content of POM in the 0–2 mm layer was lower in the presence than in the absence of larvae, suggesting ingestion and subduction of the added detritus. After prolonged incubation without further food addition, exoenzyme activities returned close to background values in both treatments, whereas the vertical distribution of POM remained unchanged. 4. The overall penetration depth of O2 and NOinline image into the sediment was greater in the presence than the absence of C. riparius, the differences being more pronounced after prolonged incubation. Locally high O2 and NOinline image concentrations due to bioirrigation by C. riparius were measured deep in the sediment. Net downward transport of particles was observed only in the presence of C. riparius larvae and only at the beginning of the incubation. 5. I conclude that deposit‐feeding and bioturbation by macrofauna can quickly remove freshly deposited POM from the sediment surface and transfer it to less oxygenated sites (i.e. animal guts and deep sediment layers). Bioirrigation also increases the availability of oxidants deep in the sediment. The oscillation of oxidant supply to POM particles by ingestion–egestion, burial and re‐burial, and the intermittent bioirrigation of subsurface sediment, is probably the cause of the increased rate of organic matter hydrolysis, the rate‐limiting step in mineralization.