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    Ecosystem functions are driven by abiotic and biotic factors, but due to high collinearity of both, it is often difficult to disentangle the drivers of these ecosystem functions. We studied sedimentological and faunal controls of benthic organic matter mineralization, a crucial ecosystem process provided for by sediments of shelf seas. Subtidal benthic habitats representative of the wide permeability gradient found in the Belgian Part of the North Sea (Northeast Atlantic Shelf) were characterized in terms of sediment descriptors, macrofauna, and sediment biogeochemistry was estimated. Our results confirmed a strong correlation between sediment characteristics and macrofauna, and estimated sediment biogeochemical process rates were clearly linked to both. Results of variance partitioning and statistical modelling showed that oxic mineralization and nitrification were mainly regulated by faunal activities whereas anoxic mineralization was regulated by sediment properties, with permeability as a decisive factor. Both biotic and abiotic factors were needed to explain variability in oxygen consumption and total mineralization estimates, suggesting that macrofaunal activities have different effects across habitats. The statistical models were a useful tool to interpret the impact of anthropogenic activities in the study area and represent a step towards predicting the effects of human activities on crucial ecosystem functions. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


    Elise Toussaint, Emil De Borger, Ulrike Braeckman, Annelies De Backer, Karline Soetaert, Jan Vanaverbeke. Faunal and environmental drivers of carbon and nitrogen cycling along a permeability gradient in shallow North Sea sediments. The Science of the total environment. 2021 May 01;767:144994

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    PMID: 33550059

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