Ballasted Flocs Capture Pelagic Primary Production and Alter the Local Sediment Characteristics in the Coastal German Bight (North Sea)


Suspended, organic matter, especially in the form of adhesive extracellular polymers (EPS), tends to form flocs, which may also incorporate suspended lithogenic particles in coastal environments. With an increased settling velocity, these ballasted flocs form in a narrow zone along the coast and potentially represent a major source of pelagic primary production for the benthic community. We sought support for this hypothesis by examining our measurements of the mud content, porosity, permeability, pigment content, and specific respiration rate of sediment from the German Bight (North Sea) for signs that the pelagic zone of ballasted floc formation is affecting the local sediment characteristics. Based on a simple bottom-shear stress model and by employing empirical correlations of sediment characteristics we were able to find strong indications that this is actually the case. Our results demonstrate how ballasted flocs contribute to the benthic pelagic coupling in a high turbulence environment.
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