Coupling bioturbation activity to metal (Fe and Mn) profiles in situ
The relative contributions that species assemblages, abiotic variables, and their interactions with one another make to ecosystem properties are recognised but are seldom considered simultaneously, within context, and at the appropriate spatio-temporal scales. Here, we combine fluorescent time-lapse sediment profile imaging (f-SPI) and diffusion gradient thin gels (DGT) to examine, in situ, the link between an important benthic ecosystem process (bioturbation) and the availability (profiles) of Fe and Mn. Whilst the combination of these methodologies (fg-SPI) was successful in gathering high-resolution in situ data of bioturbation activity and Fe/Mn profiles simultaneously, we show that the mechanistic basis of how the infaunal community mediate Fe and Mn is difficult to reconcile because of the spatio-temporal differences between particle and porewater mixing. This mismatch means that the consideration of these mechanistic processes in isolation is likely to limit our interpretative capacity of how infaunal communities mediate various biogeochemical processes in the natural environment. Moreover, the combination of multiple technologies, process based simulation modelling and generalised additive statistical modelling achieved here, emphasises the importance of simultaneously considering additional factors that influence benthic chemistry, in particular bioirrigation and tidal flushing of the sediment profile. Our findings highlight a pressing need to determine how the relative importance of multiple abiotic and biotic factors act in concert to alter major biogeochemical pathways across a variety of contexts and habitats.