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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-340
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-2020-340
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  06 Oct 2020

06 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal BG.

Bioturbation has a limited effect on phosphorus burial in salt marsh sediments

Sebastiaan J. van de Velde1,2, Rebecca K. James3, Ine Callebaut4, Silvia Hidalgo-Martinez5, and Filip J. R. Meysman5,6 Sebastiaan J. van de Velde et al.
  • 1Bgeosys, Geoscience, Environment & Society, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium
  • 3Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 4Analytical, Environmental and Geo-Chemistry, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
  • 5Department of Biology, Universiteit Antwerpen, 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium
  • 6Department of Biotechnology, Technical University of Delft, Delft, The Netherlands

Abstract. It has been hypothesised that the evolution of animals during the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition had a major impact on atmospheric O2 and CO2 concentrations. The models upon which this hypothesis rests, critically assume that bioturbation by the newly evolved fauna increased the burial of organic phosphorus (Porg) within the seafloor, relative to organic carbon (Corg) and that inorganic phosphorus (Pinorg) burial was not affected by bioturbation. This assumption is centrally based on data compilations from marine sediments deposited under oxic and anoxic bottom waters. Since anoxia excludes the presence of infauna and sediment reworking, the observed differences in P burial are assumed to be solely driven by the presence of bioturbators. This reasoning however ignores the potentially confounding impact of bottom water oxygenation on phosphorus burial. Here, our goal is to provide a field verification for the idea that bioturbation increases the relative burial of organic phosphorus, while accounting for bottom water oxygenation. We present solid-phase phosphorus speciation data from salt marsh ponds with and without bioturbation (Blakeney salt marsh, Norfolk, UK). In both cases, the pond sediments are exposed to oxygenated bottom waters and so the only difference is the presence/absence of bioturbating macrofauna. Our data reveal that both the Corg : Porg ratio of buried organic matter and the rate of Pinorg burial are indistinguishable between bioturbated and non-bioturbated sediments. The absence of a clear effect of bioturbation on total P burial implies that previous studies may have overestimated the impact of the rise of bioturbation on atmospheric O2 and CO2 concentrations in the early Cambrian.

Sebastiaan J. van de Velde et al.

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Sebastiaan J. van de Velde et al.

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Sedimentary and plant carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus measurements of Blakeney salt marsh ponds Sebastiaan J. van de Velde, Rebecca K. James, Ine Callebaut, Silvia Hidalgo-Martinez, and Filip J. R. Meysman https://doi.org/10.14284/419

Sebastiaan J. van de Velde et al.

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Short summary
Some 540 million years ago, animal life evolved in the ocean. Previous research suggested that when these early animals started inhabiting the seafloor, they retained phosphorus in the seafloor, thereby limiting photosynthesis in the ocean. We studied salt-marsh sediments with and without animals and found that their impact on phosphorus retention is limited, which implies that their impact on the global environment might have been less drastic than previously assumed.
Some 540 million years ago, animal life evolved in the ocean. Previous research suggested that...
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