Bioturbation in the abyssal Arabian Sea: influence of fauna and food supply

R Turnewitsch*, U Witte, G Graf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


In order to evaluate bioturbation in abyssal Arabian-Sea sediments of the Indus fan profiles of (210)Pb (half-life:22.3 yr) and (234)Th (half-life: 24.1 d) were measured in cores collected during September and October 1995 and April 1997, respectively. The density and composition of epibenthic megafauna and lebensspuren were determined in vertical seafloor photographs during April 1997. Mean eddy-diffusive mixing coefficients according to the distribution of excess (210)Pb ( (210)Pb-D(B)) were 0.072 +/- 0.028, 0.068 +/- 0.055, 0.373 +/- 0.119, 0.037 +/- 0.009 and 0.079 +/- 0.119 cm(2) yr(-1) in the northern, western, central, eastern and southern abyssal Arabian sea, respectively. Mean eddy-diffusive mixing coefficients according to the distribution of excess (234)Th ((234)Th-D(B)) were 0.53, 1.64 and 0.47 cm(2) yr(-1) in the northern, western and central abyssal Arabian Sea, respectively. Mobile epibenthic megafauna at the western, northern, central and southern study sites were dominated by ophiuroids, holothurians, ophiuroids and natant decapods (the respective densities were 100, 82, 29 and 6 individuals 1000 m(-2)). The northern study site was characterized by a high abundance of spoke traces and fecal casts. The central site showed spoke traces and many tracks. The southern site displayed the highest abundance of spoke traces, whereas at the western site hardly any lebensspuren were observed. There is evidence for at least two functional endmember communities in the Arabian Sea. In the northwestern Arabian Sea (WAST) vertical particle displacement seems to be dominated by macrofauna anal primarily eddy-diffusive. In the southern Arabian Sea (SAST) non-local and 'incidental' mixing due to spoke-trace producers might become more important and superimpose reduced eddy-diffusive mixing. With respect to biological data CAST is an intermediate location. Given the biological data, average (210)Pb-D(B) is higher and decimeter-scale variability of (210)Pb-D(B) smaller at CAST than expected. These findings indicate that in a mixture of both endmember communities the organisms may interact in way that increases values of biodiffusivity, as reflected by (210)Pb-D(B), and reduces decimeter-scale (210)Pb-D(B) heterogeneity in comparison to the simple sum of the isolated effects of the endmembers. For time scales <100 years there was no evidence for a relationship between food supply (POC flux) and bioturbation intensity, as reflected by (210)Pb-D(B) and (234)Th-D(B) Bioturbation intensity should be controlled primarily by the composition of the benthic fauna, its specific adaptation to the environmental setting, and the abundance of each species of the benthic community. Food supply can have only an indirect influence on bioturbation intensity. In certain parts of the ocean the a priori overall positive relationship between POC Aux and biodiffusivity might include restricted intervals displaying no or even negative relations. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2877-2911
Number of pages35
JournalDeep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 2000


  • PB-210


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