Erodibility of soft freshwater sediments in Markermeer: the role of bioturbation by meiobenthic fauna

de Lucas Pardo, M. A., Bakker, M., van Kessel, T., Cozzoli, F., & Winterwerp, J. C. (2013). Erodibility of soft freshwater sediments in Markermeer: the role of bioturbation by meiobenthic fauna. Ocean Dynamics, 63(9-10), 1137-1150.

The Markermeer is a large and shallow man-made freshwater lake in the Netherlands, characterized by its high turbidity. As part of a study aiming to mitigate this high turbidity, we studied the water–bed exchange processes of the lake’s muddy bed. The upper centimeter’s–decimeter’s of the lake bed sediments mainly consists of soft anoxic mud. Recent measurements have proved the existence of a thin oxic layer on top of this soft anoxic mud. This oxic layer, which is much easier to be eroded than the anoxic mud, is believed to be related with Markermeer’s high-turbidity levels. Our hypothesis is that the thin oxic layer develops from the anoxic mud, enhanced by bioturbation. Actually, we will demonstrate that it is the bioturbated state of the bed that increases its erodability, and not the oxidation state of the sediments. In particular, we will refer to bioturbation caused by meiobenthic fauna. The objective of this study is therefore to determine the influence of the development of the thin oxic layer on the water–bed exchange processes, as well as to establish the role of bioturbation on those processes. This is done by quantifying the erosion rate as a function of bed shear stresses, and at different stages of the development of the oxic layer. Our experiments show that bioturbation increases the rate at which Markermeer sediments are eroded by almost an order of magnitude. The short-term fine sediment dynamics in Markermeer are found to be driven by the complex and highly dynamic interactions between physics, chemistry, and biology. Finally, the long-term fine sediment dynamics are driven by the erosion of the historical deposits in the lake’s bed, which is only possible after bioturbation, and which leads to an increase of the stock of sediments in the lake’s muddy bed.