Articles | Volume 12, issue 15
Research article
03 Aug 2015
Research article |  | 03 Aug 2015

Effects of temperature and organic pollution on nutrient cycling in marine sediments

C. Sanz-Lázaro, T. Valdemarsen, and M. Holmer

Abstract. Increasing ocean temperature due to climate change is an important anthropogenic driver of ecological change in coastal systems. In these systems sediments play a major role in nutrient cycling. Our ability to predict ecological consequences of climate change is enhanced by simulating real scenarios. Based on predicted climate change scenarios, we tested the effect of temperature and organic pollution on nutrient release from coastal sediments to the water column in a mesocosm experiment. PO43− release rates from sediments followed the same trends as organic matter mineralization rates, increased linearly with temperature and were significantly higher under organic pollution than under nonpolluted conditions. NH4+ release only increased significantly when the temperature rise was above 6 °C, and it was significantly higher in organic polluted compared to nonpolluted sediments. Nutrient release to the water column was only a fraction from the mineralized organic matter, suggesting PO43− retention and NH4+ oxidation in the sediment. Bioturbation and bioirrigation appeared to be key processes responsible for this behavior. Considering that the primary production of most marine basins is N-limited, the excess release of NH4+ at a temperature rise > 6 °C could enhance water column primary productivity, which may lead to the deterioration of the environmental quality. Climate change effects are expected to be accelerated in areas affected by organic pollution.

Final-revised paper