This study focuses on the interactions between sediment stability and biological and physical variables that influence the erodibility across different habitats. Sampling at short-term temporal scales illustrated the persistence of the microphytobenthos (MPB) biomass even during periods of frequent, high physical disturbance. The role of MPB in biological stabilization along the changing sedimentary habitat was also assessed. Key biological and physical properties, such as the MPB biomass, composition, and extracellular polymeric substances, were used to predict the sediment stability (erosion threshold) of muddy and sandy habitats within close proximity to one another over multiple days, and within emersion periods. The effects of dewatering, MPB growth, and productivity were examined as well as the resilience and recovery of the MPB community after disturbance from tidal currents and waves. Canonical analysis of principal components (CAP) ordinations were used to visualize and assess the trends observed in biophysical properties between the sites, and marginal and sequential distance-based linear models were used to identify the key properties influencing erodibility. While the particle size of the bed was important for differences between sites in the CAP analysis, it contributed less to the variability in sediment erodibility than key biological parameters. Among the biological predictors, MPB diversity explained very little variation in marginal tests but was a significant predictor in sequential tests when MPB biomass was also considered. MPB diversity and biomass were both key predictors of sediment stability, contributing 9% and 10%, respectively, to the final model compared to 2% explained by grain size.
Hope, J. A., Malarkey, J., Baas, J. H., Peakall, J., Parsons, D. R., Manning, A. J., …Paterson, D. M. (2020). Interactions between sediment microbial ecology and physical dynamics drive heterogeneity in contextually similar depositional systems. Limnology and Oceanography, 65(10), 2403-2419. https://doi.org/10.1002/lno.11461