Changes in Ammonium and pH within Intertidal Sediments in Relation to Temperature and the Occurrence of Non-Indigenous Bivalves


Our objective was to determine the role of two invasive bivalves on the concentration of ammonium as well as pH within intertidal surface sediments (0 - 3 and 3 - 6 cm depth) and interstitial waters, within the context of a warming environment. To meet this objective we applied both controlled laboratory (microcosm) and field (mesocosm) experiments where we varied bivalve presence and absence and sediment temperature. Mesocosm sampling was tide dependent as we attempted to capture changes in ammonium concentration and pH as related to flood and ebb tide. We focused on ammonium as this nutrient is typically a limiting nutrient in oceanic systems and its cycling is a key process that regulates biological productivity. We also determined pH because of the increasing threat of ocean acidification. Integration of laboratory and field studies suggests that bivalves significantly contribute to ammonium to the intertidal with this amount increasing with increasing temperature. This ammonium is then released from the sediment as a “pulse” to overlying seawater on the flood tide. Under laboratory conditions, increased temperature and density of bivalves decreased overlying water pH. Mesocosm studies suggested some tide dependence of pH with flood tide acting as a buffer, increasing pH on the flood tide, after sediment exposure during ebb tide. Increased numbers of invasive bivalves within a warming environment are likely to increase amounts of ammonium released as a pulse on flood tides from intertidal ecosystems making this region a source of ammonium to coastal seas. Greater numbers of non-indigenous bivalves within the intertidal could also contribute to increased acidity within these regions although the significance of such increases is unknown.

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Bendell, L. , Chan, K. , Crevecoeur, S. and Prigent, C. (2014) Changes in Ammonium and pH within Intertidal Sediments in Relation to Temperature and the Occurrence of Non-Indigenous Bivalves. Open Journal of Marine Science, 4, 151-162. doi: 10.4236/ojms.2014.43015.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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