, Volume 113, Issue 1–3, pp 37–52 | Cite as

Impact of resuspension of cohesive sediments at the Oyster Grounds (North Sea) on nutrient exchange across the sediment–water interface

  • Fay Couceiro
  • Gary R. Fones
  • Charlotte E. L. Thompson
  • Peter J. Statham
  • David B. Sivyer
  • Ruth Parker
  • Boris A. Kelly-Gerreyn
  • Carl L. Amos


Benthic-pelagic exchange processes are recognised as important nutrient sources in coastal areas, however, the relative impact of diffusion, resuspension and other processes such as bioturbation and bioirrigation are still relatively poorly understood. Experimental ship-based data are presented showing the effects of diffusion and resuspension on cohesive sediments at a temperate shelf location in the North Sea. Measurements of diffusive fluxes in both spring (1.76, 0.51, −0.91, 17.6 μmol/m2/h) and late summer (8.53, −0.03, −1.12, 35.0 μmol/m2/h) for nitrate, nitrite, phosphate and dissolved silicon respectively, provided comparisons for measured resuspension fluxes. Increases in diffusive fluxes of nitrate and dissolved silicon to the water column in late summer coincided with decreases in bottom water oxygen concentrations and increases in temperature. Resuspension experiments using a ship board annular flume and intact box core allowed simultaneous measurement of suspended particulate matter, water velocity and sampling of nutrients in the water column during a step wise increase in bed shear velocity. The resuspension of benthic fluff led to small but significant releases of phosphate and nitrate to the water column with chamber concentration increasing from 0.70–0.76 and 1.84–2.22 μmol/L respectively. Resuspension of the sediment bed increased water column concentrations of dissolved silicon by as much as 125% (7.10–15.9 μmol/L) and nitrate and phosphate concentrations by up to 67% (1.84–3.08 μmol/L) and 66% (0.70–1.15 μmol/L) respectively. Mass balance calculations indicate that processes such as microbial activity or adsorption/desorption other than simple release of pore water nutrients must occur during resuspension to account for the increase. This study shows that resuspension is potentially an important pathway for resupplying the water column with nutrients before and during phytoplankton blooms and should therefore be considered along with diffusive fluxes in future ecosystem models.


Resuspension Nutrients Cohesive sediment Flume Oyster Grounds North Sea 



We thank the crew and scientists of the RV Endeavour (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), cruise Cend 04-08) and Sue Atkins for all her help with equipment preparation. This partnership project was funded equally by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC NE/F003293/1 & NE/F 003552/1) and Defra as part of the Marine Ecosystem Connections (MEC, ME3205) project.


  1. Almroth E, Tengberg A, Andersson JH, Pakhomova S, Hall POJ (2009) Effects of resuspension on benthic fluxes of oxygen, nutrients, dissolved inorganic carbon, iron and manganese in the Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea. Cont Shelf Res 29:807–818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amos CL, Sutherland TF, Radzijewski B, Doucette M (1996) A rapid technique to determine bulk density of fine-grained sediments by X-ray computed tomography. J Sediment Res 66:1023–1025CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Amos CL, Droppo IG, Gomez EA, Murphy TP (2003) The stability of a remediated bed in Hamilton Harbour, Lake Ontario, Canada. Sedimentology 50:149–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Amos CL, Bergamasco A, Umgiesser G, Cappucci S, Cloutier D, DeNat L, Flindt M, Bonardi M, Cristante S (2004) The stability of tidal flats in Venice Lagoon—the results of in situ measurements using two benthic, annular flumes. J Mar Syst 51:211–241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baretta J, Ebenhöh W, Ruardij P (1995) The European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model, a complex marine ecosystem model. Neth J Sea Res 33:233–246CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bidle KD, Azam F (2001) Bacterial control of silicon regeneration from diatom detritus: significance of bacterial ectohydrolases and species identity. Limnol Oceanogr 46:1606–1623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Braeckman U, Provoost P, Gribsholt B, Van Gansbeke D, Middelburg JJ, Soetaert K, Vincx M, Vanaverbeke J (2010) Role of macrofauna functional traits and density in biogeochemical fluxes and bioturbation. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 399:173–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burdige DJ (2006) Geochemistry of marine sediments. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USAGoogle Scholar
  9. Caffrey JM, Harrington N, Solem I, Ward BB (2003) Biogeochemical processes in a small California estuary. 2. Nitrification activity, community structure and role in nitrogen budgets. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 248:27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Couceiro F, Rauen W, Millward GE, Lin B, Turner A, Falconer R (2009) Transport and reactivity of nickel in estuarine sediments: results from a high capacity flume. Mar Chem 117:71–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dale AW, Prego R (2002) Physico-biogeochemical controls on benthic-pelagic coupling of nutrient fluxes and recycling in a coastal upwelling system. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 235:15–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Davis SE, Childers DL, Day JW, Rudnick DT, Sklar FH (2001) Nutrient dynamics in vegetated and unvegetated areas of a southern Everglades mangrove creek. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 52:753–768CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. de Nooijer LJ, Duijnstee IAP, Bergman MJN, van der Zwaan GJ (2008) The ecology of benthic foraminifera across the Frisian Front, southern North Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 78:715–726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dixit S, Van Cappellen P, van Bennekom AJ (2001) Processes controlling solubility of biogenic silica and pore water build-up of silicic acid in marine sediments. Mar Chem 73:333–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dounas C, Davies I, Triantafyllou G, Koulouri P, Petihakis G, Arvanitidis C, Sourlatzis G, Eleftheriou A (2007) Large-scale impacts of bottom trawling on shelf primary productivity. Cont Shelf Res 27:2198–2210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Everaarts JM, Fischer CV (1992) The distribution of heavy-metals (Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb) in the fine fraction of surface sediments of the north-sea. Neth J Sea Res 29:323–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fanning KA, Carder KL, Betzer PR (1982) Sediment resuspension by coastal waters: a potential mechanism for nutrient re-cycling on the ocean’s margins. Deep-Sea Res Pt A 29:953–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fung A (1997) Calibration of flow field in MiniFlume. Natural Resources of Canda report L 23420-7-M339. 8 ppGoogle Scholar
  19. Gao Y, Lesven L, Gillan D, Sabbe K, Billon G, De Galan S, Elskens M, Baeyens W, Leermakers M (2009) Geochemical behaviour of trace elements in sub-tidal marine sediments of the Belgian coast. Mar Chem 117:88–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Glud RN, Gundersen JK, Roy H, Jorgensen BB (2003) Seasonal dynamics of benthic O-2 uptake in a semienclosed bay: importance of diffusion and faunal activity. Limnol Oceanogr 48:1265–1276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gowen RJ, Stewart BM (2005) The Irish Sea: nutrient status and phytoplankton. J Sea Res 54:36–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Greenwood N, Parker ER, Fernand L, Sivyer DB, Weston K, Painting SJ, Kroger S, Forster RM, Lees HE, Mills DK, Laane RWPM (2010) Detection of low bottom water oxygen concentrations in the North Sea; implications for monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health. Biogeosciences 7:1357–1373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hall GH (1986) Nitrification in lakes. In: Prosser JI (ed) Nitrification. IRL Press, Oxford, pp 127–156Google Scholar
  24. Hopkinson CS Jr (1987) Nutrient regeneration in shallow water sediments of the estuarine plume region of the nearshore Georgia Bight, USA. Mar Biol 94:127–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hydes DJ, Kelly-Gerreyn BA, Le Gall AC, Proctor R (1999) The balance of supply of nutrients and demands of biological production and denitrification in a temperate latitude shelf sea—a treatment of the southern North Sea as an extended estuary. Mar Chem 68:117–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ingall E, Jahnke R (1997) Influence of water column anoxia on the elemental fraction of carbon and phosphorus during sediment diagenesis. Mar Geol 139:219–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jago CF, Jones SE, Latter RJ, McCandliss RR, Hearn MR, Howarth MJ (2002) Resuspension of benthic fluff by tidal currents in deep stratified waters, northern North Sea. J Sea Res 48:259–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kalnejais LH, Martin W, Signall RP, Bothner MH (2007) Role of sediment resuspension in the remobilization of particulate-phase metals from coastal sediments. Environ Sci Technol 41:2282–2288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kalnejais LH, Martin W, Bothner MH (2010) The release of dissolved nutrients and metals from coastal sediments due to resuspension. Mar Chem 121:224–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kamatani A (1982) Dissolution rates of silica from diatoms decomposing at various temperatures. Mar Biol 68:91–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kirkwood DS (1999) Stability of solutions of nutrient salts during storage. Mar Chem 38:151–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kleeberg A, Hupfer M, Gust G (2008) Quantification of phosphorus entrainment in a lowland river by in situ and laboratory resuspension experiments. Aquat Sci 70:87–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lansard B, Grenz C, Charmasson S, Schaaff E, Pinazo C (2006) Potential plutonium remobilisation linked to marine sediment resuspension: first estimates based on flume experiments. J Sea Res 55:74–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lohse L, Malschaert JFP, Slomp CP, Helder W, Vanraaphorst W (1993) Nitrogen cycling in north-sea sediments—interaction of denitrification and nitrification in offshore and coastal areas. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 101:283–296CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lohse L, Helder W, Epping EHG, Balzer W (1998) Recycling of organic matter along a shelf-slope transect across the N.W. European Continental Margin (Goban Spur). Prog Oceanogr 42:77–110CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Luczak C, Janquin MA, Kupka A (1997) Simple standard procedure for the routine determination of organic matter in marine sediment. Hydrobiologia 345:87–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Luo LC, Qin BQ, Zhu GW, Sun XJ, Hong DL, Gao YJ, Xie R (2006) Nutrient fluxes induced by disturbance in Meiliang Bay of Lake Taihu. Sci China Ser D 49:186–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mehta AJ, Parchure TM, Dixit JG, Ariathuri R (1982) Resuspension potential of deposited cohesive sediment beds. In Kenedy VS (ed) Estuarine comparisons. Academic Press, New York, pp 591–609Google Scholar
  39. Nayar S, Miller DJ, Hunt A, Goh BPL, Chou LM (2007) Environmental effects of dredging on sediment nutrients, carbon and granulometry in a tropical estuary. Environ Monit Assess 127:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nedwell DB, Assinder DJ, Parkes RJ, Upton AC (1993) Seasonal fluxes across the sediments-water interface, and processes within sediments. Philos T R Soc S-A 343:519–529CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nizzoli D, Bartoli M, Cooper M, Welsh DT, Underwood GJC, Viaroli P (2007) Implications for oxygen, nutrient fluxes and denitrification rates during the early stage of sediment colonisation by the polychaete Nereis spp. in four estuaries. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 75:125–134CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Ogilvie BG, Rutter M, Nedwell DB (1997) Selection by temperature of nitrate-reducing bacteria from estuarine sediments: species composition and competition for nitrate. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 23:11–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Osinga R, Kop AJ, Duineveld GCA, Prins RA, VanDuyl FC (1996) Benthic mineralization rates at two locations in the southern North Sea. J Sea Res 36:181–191CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rabus R, Bruchert V, Amann J, Konneke M (2002) Physiological response to temperature changes of the marine, sulfate-reducing bacterium Desulfobacterium autotrophicum. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 42:409–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Reise K (2002) Sediment mediated species interactions in coastal waters. J Sea Res 48:127–141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reiss H, Kroncke I (2005) Seasonal variability of infaunal community structures in three areas of the North Sea under different environmental conditions. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 65:253–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rivera-Monroy VH, de Mutsert K, Twilley RR, Castaneda-Moya E, Romigh MM, Davis SE (2007) Patterns of nutrient exchange in a riverine mangrove forest in the Shark River Estuary, Florida, USA. Hidrobiologica 17:169–178Google Scholar
  48. Rocha C, Cabral AP (1998) The influence of tidal action on porewater nitrate concentration and dynamics in intertidal sediments of the Sado Estuary. Estuaries 21:635–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Rysgaard S, Risgaard-Peterson N, Sloth NP, Jensen K, Nielsen LP (1994) Oxygen regulation of nitrification and denitrification in sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 39:1643–1652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sapp M, Parker ER, Teal LR, Schratzberger M (2010) Advancing the understanding of biogeography-diversity relationships of benthic microorganisms in the North Sea. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 74:410–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Scarlatos PD (1997) Experiments on water-sediment nutrient partitioning under turbulent, shear and diffusive conditions. Water Air Soil Pollut 99:411–425Google Scholar
  52. Serpa D, Falcão M, Duarte P, Cancela da Fonseca L &Vale C (2007) Evaluation of ammonium and phosphate release from intertidal and subtidal sediments of a shallow coastal lagoon (Ria Formosa-Portugal): a modelling approach. Biogeochemistry 82:291–304Google Scholar
  53. Sloth NP, Riemann B, Nielsen LP, Blackburn TH (1996) Resilience of pelagic and benthic microbial communities to sediment resuspension in a coastal ecosystem, Knebel Vig, Denmark. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 42:405–415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sondergaard M, Kristensen P, Jeppesen E (1992) Phosphorus release from resuspended sediment in the shallow and wind-exposed Lake Arreso, Denmark. Hydrobiologia 228:91–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Southwell MW, Kieber RJ, Mead RN, Avery GB, Skrabal SA (2010) Effects of sunlight on the production of dissolved organic and inorganic nutrients from resuspended sediments. Biogeochemistry 98:115–126 Google Scholar
  56. Stoeck T, Kroncke I, Duineveld GCA, Palojarvi A (2002) Phospholipid fatty acid profiles at depositional and non-depositional sites in the North Sea. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 241:57–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sun XJ, Zhu GW, Luo LC, Qin BQ (2006) Experimental study on phosphorus release from sediments of shallow lake in wave flume. Sci China Ser D 49:92–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Sutherland TF, Amos CL, Grant J (1998) The erosion threshold of biotic sediments: a comparison of methods. In: Black KS, Paterson DM, Cramp A (eds) Sedimentary processes in the intertidal zone. Special Publications 139. Geological Society, London, pp 295–307Google Scholar
  59. Teal LR, Parker R, Fones G, Solan M (2009) Simultaneous determination of in situ vertical transitions of color, pore-water metals, and visualization of infaunal activity in marine sediments. Limnol Oceanogr 54:1801–1810CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Tengberg A, Almroth E, Hall P (2003) Resuspension and its effects on organic carbon recycling and nutrient exchange in coastal sediments: in situ measurements using new experimental technology. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 285:119–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thompson CEL, Amos CL, Jones TER, Chaplin J (2003) The manifestation of fluid-transmitted bed shear stress in a smooth annular flume—a comparison of methods. J Coast Res 19:1094–1103Google Scholar
  62. Thompson CEL, Amos CL, Lecouturier M, Jones TER (2004) Flow deceleration as a method of determining drag coefficient over roughened flat beds. J Geophys Res 109:12 ppGoogle Scholar
  63. Thompson CEL, Couceiro F, Fones GR, Helsby R, Amos CL, Black K, Parker ER, Greenwood N, Statham PJ, Kelly-Gerreyn BA (2011) In situ flume measurements of resuspension in the North Sea. Estuar Coast Shelf Sci 94:77–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Trimmer M, Nedwell DB, Sivyer DB, Malcolm SJ (1998) Nitrogen fluxes through the lower estuary of the river Great Ouse, England: the role of the bottom sediments. Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 163:109–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van Bennekom AJ, Buma AGJ, Nolting RF (1991) Dissolved aluminium in the Weddell-Scotia confluence and effect of Al on the dissolution kinetics of biogenic silica. Mar Chem 35:423–434CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. van Raaphorst W, Kloosterhuis HT, Berghuis EM, Gieles AJM, Malschaert JFP, Van Noort GJ (1992) Nitrogen cycling in two types of sediments of the southern North Sea frisian front broad fourteens field data and mesocosm results. Neth J Sea Res 28:293–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. van Raaphorst W, Malschaert H, van Haren H (1998) Tidal resuspension and deposition of particulate matter in the Oyster Grounds, North Sea. J Mar Res 56:257–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Vidal M (1994) Phosphate dynamics tied to sediment disturbances in Alfacs Bay (NW Mediterranean). Mar Ecol-Prog Ser 110:211–221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Wainright SC, Hopkinson CS (1997) Effects of sediment resuspension on organic matter processing in coastal environments: a simulation model. J Mar Syst 11:353–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weston K, Fernand L, Nicholls J, Marca-Bell A, Mills D, Sivyer D, Trimmer M (2008) Sedimentary and water column processes in the Oyster Grounds: a potentially hypoxic region of the North Sea. Mar Environ Res 65:235–249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Widdows J, Friend PL, Bale AJ, Brinsley MD, Pope ND, Thompson CEL (2007) Inter-comparison between five devices for determining erodability of intertidal sediments. Cont Shelf Res 27:1174–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Winterwerp JC (1989) Flow-induced erosion of cohesive beds: a literature study. Rijkswatersaat—Delft Hydraulics Report No. 25Google Scholar
  73. Wood HL, Widdicombe S, Spicer JI (2009) The influence of hypercapnia and the infaunal brittlestar Amphiura filiformis on sediment nutrient flux—will ocean acidification affect nutrient exchange? Biogeosciences 6:2015–2024CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Fay Couceiro
    • 1
  • Gary R. Fones
    • 1
  • Charlotte E. L. Thompson
    • 2
  • Peter J. Statham
    • 2
  • David B. Sivyer
    • 3
  • Ruth Parker
    • 3
  • Boris A. Kelly-Gerreyn
    • 4
  • Carl L. Amos
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Portsmouth, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesPortsmouthUK
  2. 2.School of Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Cefas Lowestoft LaboratoryLowestoftUK
  4. 4.National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

Personalised recommendations