Impact of benthos on morphodynamics from a modeling perspective


Benthic organisms and their bioturbation activities have a profound effect on a multitude of sediment properties. While many studies have already explored benthic impacts at small temporal and spatial scales, little is known on how the small-scale effects accumulate and interactively guide large-scale (km-scale) morphological evolution. Here we firstly summarize the most important processes of benthos affecting sediment stability and then explore existing biomorphodynamic modeling studies both at small- and large-scales. In general, microbenthos (body size <0.1 mm) mainly stabilizes sediments while meio- (0.1–1 mm) and macrobenthos (>1 mm) may stabilize or destabilize sediments. Among all types of sediment, fine-grained fraction (silt and clay) is most sensitive to the impact of benthos. Benthic organisms have the capability to mediate sediment transport and sedimentation patterns beyond their habitats on the long-term and over a large-scale. However, so far, numerical models evaluating benthic impact are limited to explorative studies and have not reached a stage where they can be used for predictive modeling. The barriers hindering a further development of biomorphodynamic models include not only limited understanding of fundamental biological/bio-physical processes affecting morphological development and dynamic feedback loops among them but also a shortage of data for model calibration and confirmation of simulation results. On the other hand, thriving for higher model complexity does not necessarily lead to better performance. Before conducting biomorphodynamic modeling, researchers must figure out which questions can be answered in a meaningful sense with simulation results that can be compared with observations and which level of modeling complexity is sufficient for that purpose.
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