Anthropogenic disturbance keeps the coastal seafloor biogeochemistry in a transient state

Sebastiaan Van De Velde, Vera Van Lancker, Silvia Hidalgo Martinez, William Berelson, Filip Meysman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Coastal sediments and continental shelves play a crucial role in global biogeochemistry, as they form the prime site of organic carbon burial. Bottom trawling and dredging are known to increasingly impact the coastal seafloor through relocation and homogenisation of sediments, yet little is known about the effects of such anthropogenic sediment reworking on the overall cycling of carbon and other elements within the coastal seafloor. Here, we document the transient recovery of the seafloor biogeochemistry after an in situ disturbance. Evidence from pore-water data and model simulations reveal a short-term increase in the overall carbon mineralisation rate, as well as a longer-term shift in the redox pathways of organic matter mineralisation, favouring organoclastic sulphate reduction over methane formation. This data suggests that anthropogenic sediment reworking could have a sizeable impact on the carbon cycle in cohesive sediments on continental shelves. This imprint will increase in the near future, along with the growing economic exploitation of the coastal ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5582
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports - Nature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


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