Short-term influence of recolonisation by the polycheate worm [2pt] Nereis succinea on oxygen and nitrogen fluxes and [2pt] denitrification: a microcosm simulation
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The short-term effects of sediment recolonisation by Nereis succinea on sediment-water column fluxes of oxygen and dissolved inorganic nitrogen, and rates of denitrification, were studied in microcosms of homogenised, sieved sediments. The added worms enhanced oxygen uptake by the sediments, due to the increased surface area provided by the burrow walls and the degree of stimulation was stable with time. Similarly, ammonium fluxes to the water column were stimulated by N. succinea, but declined over the 3 day incubation in all microcosms including the controls. Nitrate fluxes were generally greater in the faunated microcosms, but highly variable with time. Denitrification rates were positively stimulated by N. succinea populations, denitrification of water column nitrate was stimulated 10-fold in comparison to denitrification coupled to nitrification in the sediments. Rates of denitrification of water column nitrate were not significantly different from rates in undisturbed sediment cores with similar densities of N. succinea, whereas rates of coupled nitrification–denitrification were 3-fold lower in the experimental set-up. These results may reflect the relative growth rates of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria, which allow more rapid colonisation of new burrow surfaces by denitrifier compared to nitrifier populations. The data indicate that recolonisation by burrowing macrofauna of the highly reduced sediments of the Sacca di Goro, Lagoon, Italy, following the annual dystrophic crisis, may play a significant role in the reoxidation and detoxification of the sediments. The increased rates of denitrification associated with the worm burrows, may promote nitrogen losses, but due to the low capacity of nitrifying bacteria to colonise the new burrow structures, these losses would be highly dependent upon water column nitrate concentrations.