Internal waves (seiches) are well-studied physical processes in stratified lakes, but their effects on sediment porewater chemistry and microbiology are still largely unexplored. Due to pycnocline oscillations, sediments are exposed to recurrent changes between epilimnetic and hypolimnetic water. This results in strong differences of environmental conditions, which should be reflected in the responses of redox-sensitive biogeochemical processes at both, the sediment–water interface and deeper sediment layers. We tested in a series of mesocosm experiments the influence of seiche-induced redox changes on porewater chemistry and bacterial activity in the sediments under well controlled conditions. Thereby, we excluded effects of changes in current and temperature regimes. For a period of 10 days, intact sediment cores from oligotrophic Lake Stechlin were incubated under constant (either oxic or anoxic) or alternating redox conditions. Solute concentrations were measured as porewater profiles in the sediment, while microbial activity was determined in the upper 0.5 cm of sediment. Oxic and alternating redox conditions resulted in similar ammonium, phosphate, and methane porewater concentrations, while concentrations of each analyte were considerably higher in anoxic cores. Microbial activity was clearly lower in the anoxic cores than in the oxic and the alternating cores. In conclusion, cores with intermittent anoxic phases of up to 24 hours do not differ in biogeochemistry and microbial activities from static oxic sediments. However, due to various physical processes seiches cause oxygen to penetrate deeper into sediment layers, which affects sediment redox gradients and increase microbial activity in seiche-influenced sediments.
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We thank Uta Mallok and Elke Mach for technical assistance and Michael Sachtleben and Roman Degebrodt for support during field sampling. Further, we thank Kirsten Pohlmann for statistical and language support, Volkmar Gerhardt for technical assistance with the experimental equipment and Thomas Mehner and all participants of the “Scientific Writing” course at the IGB for helpful comments and discussions on an earlier stage of this manuscript. Furthermore, we thank Martin Allgaier, Andreas Brand, Christof Engelhardt and all three reviewers for valuable annotations to this manuscript. This study was funded by the German Research Foundation (GR1540/15-1). KA was funded by Terralac, a Grant donated by the Pact for Innovation and Research of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz scientific community.
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