A model study on the large-scale effect of macrofauna on the suspended sediment concentration in a shallow shelf sea


The activity of macrofauna on the sea floor is since long known to mediate deposition and erosion of sediment, but so far most studies addressed this effect at a local scale. In the present paper, the contribution of the observed macrofauna distribution (exemplified by a bivalve, the bean-like tellin Fabulina fabula, formerly known as Tellina fabula) on large-scale sediment transport in the southern North Sea is investigated by means of a model study. Macrofauna effects are considered with respect to the critical bed shear stress and erodibility, which are two important factors that control the resuspension rate. Simulation results for a typical winter month revealed for the first time that the suspended sediment concentration (SSC) is increased not only locally but beyond the inhabited zones. This alteration is not confined to near-bed zones but can be observed throughout the entire water column, especially during storm events. These effects are most prominent in the fine silt fraction, coarser and finer fractions are less affected. For a selected storm event in February 2010, we explain the counter-intuitive decrease in near-bed SSC in some areas with a high macrofauna abundance compared to a simulation excluding such macrofauna: A high macrofauna-induced entrainment rate leads to rapid exhaustion of available sediments at the bed in the model and consequently limits the near-bed SSC.
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