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Concept: Gravel


Globally, marine surface sediments constitute a habitat for estimated 1.7 × 1028 prokaryotes. For benthic microbial community analysis, usually, several grams of sediment are processed. In this study, we made the step from bulk sediments to single sand grains to address the microbial community directly in its micro-habitat: the individual bacterial diversity on 17 sand grains was analyzed by 16S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing and visualized on sand grains using catalyzed reporter deposition fluorescence in situ hybridization. In all, 104-105 cells were present on grains from 202 to 635 μm diameter. Colonization was patchy, with exposed areas largely devoid of any epi-growth (mean cell-cell distance 4.5±5.9 μm) and protected areas more densely populated (0.5±0.7 μm). Mean cell-cell distances were 100-fold shorter compared with the water column. In general, growth occurred in monolayers. Each sand grain harbors a highly diverse bacterial community as shown by several thousand species-level operational taxonomic units (OTU)0.97. Only 4-8 single grains are needed to cover 50% of OTU0.97 richness found in bulk sediment. Although bacterial communities differed between sand grains, a core community accounting for >50% of all cells was present on each sand grain. The communities between sediment grains are more similar than between soil macroaggregates.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 1 December 2017; doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.197.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, RNA, Ribosomal RNA, Ribosome, Gravel, Sediment transport


A monitoring survey was conducted from August 2011 to July 2016 of the spatiotemporal distribution in the 400 km2 area of the northern part of Tokyo Bay and in rivers flowing into it of radiocesium released from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) accident. The average inventory in the river mouth (10 km2) was 131 kBq⋅m-2 and 0.73 kBq⋅m-2 in the central bay (330 km2) as the decay corrected value on March 16, 2011. Most of the radiocesium that flowed into Tokyo Bay originated in the northeastern section of the Tokyo metropolitan area, where the highest precipitation zone of 137Cs in soil was almost the same level as that in Fukushima City, then flowed into and was deposited in the Old-Edogawa River estuary, deep in Tokyo Bay. The highest precipitation of radiocesium measured in the high contaminated zone was 460 kBq⋅m-2. The inventory in sediment off the estuary of Old-Edogawa was 20.1 kBq⋅m-2 in August 2011 immediately after the accident, but it increased to 104 kBq⋅m-2 in July 2016. However, the radiocesium diffused minimally in sediments in the central area of Tokyo Bay in the five years following the FDNPP accident. The flux of radiocesium off the estuary decreased slightly immediately after the accident and conformed almost exactly to the values predicted based on its radioactive decay. Contrarily, the inventory of radiocesium in the sediment has increased. It was estimated that of the 8.33 TBq precipitated from the atmosphere in the catchment regions of the rivers Edogawa and Old-Edogawa, 1.31 TBq migrated through rivers and was deposited in the sediments of the Old-Edogawa estuary by July 2016. Currently, 0.25 TBq⋅yr-1 of radiocesium continues to flow into the deep parts of Tokyo Bay.

Concepts: Sediment, River, Estuary, Stream, River delta, Gravel, Geomorphology, Tokyo


Macrofauna is known to inhabit the top few 10s cm of marine sediments, with rare burrows up to two metres below the seabed. Here, we provide evidence from deep-water Permian strata for a previously unrecognised habitat up to at least 8 metres below the sediment-water interface. Infaunal organisms exploited networks of forcibly injected sand below the seabed, forming living traces and reworking sediment. This is the first record that shows sediment injections are responsible for hosting macrofaunal life metres below the contemporaneous seabed. In addition, given the widespread occurrence of thick sandy successions that accumulate in deep-water settings, macrofauna living in the deep biosphere are likely much more prevalent than considered previously. These findings should influence future sampling strategies to better constrain the depth range of infaunal animals living in modern deep-sea sands. One Sentence Summary: The living depth of infaunal macrofauna is shown to reach at least 8 metres in new habitats associated with sand injections.

Concepts: Sediment, Oceanography, Animal, Erosion, 2000s music groups, Gravel, Sediment transport, Sedimentary depositional environment


Although relatively easy to extract in the marine environment, microplastics are very difficult to recover when they are trapped in sediments. The elutriation column is one of the best tools currently available for extracting plastics from sediment, but with a high sand recovery yield. This study aims to address the following questions: (i) is it possible to use a sedimentological approach to limit the sand recovery? (ii) does the extraction velocity of the sand and plastic particles vary according to density and granulometry? (iii) what is the relative recovery efficiency obtained for dense polymer particles mixed with marine sand? Based on a new granulometric classification, different plastic particle-size fractions are defined. Their extraction velocities are experimentally determined on particles of sediment and different plastics (PA, PVC). The particle recovery experiments indicate that it is possible to extract >90% of dense plastic particles in cases of negligible sand recovery.

Concepts: Density, Sediment, Erosion, Plastic, Polyvinyl chloride, Gravel, Relative velocity, Sedimentology


Microplastics (plastic particles, 0.1 μm-5 mm in size) are widespread marine pollutants, accumulating in benthic sediments and shorelines the world over. To gain a clearer understanding of microplastic availability to marine life, and the risks they pose to the health of benthic communities, ecological processes and food security, it is important to obtain accurate measures of microplastic abundance in marine sediments. To date, methods for extracting microplastics from marine sediments have been disadvantaged by complexity, expense, low extraction efficiencies and incompatibility with very fine sediments. Here we present a new, portable method to separate microplastics from sediments of differing types, using the principle of density floatation. The Sediment-Microplastic Isolation (SMI) unit is a custom-built apparatus which consistently extracted microplastics from sediments in a single step, with a mean efficiency of 95.8% (±SE 1.6%; min 70%, max 100%). Zinc chloride, at a density of 1.5 g cm(-3), was deemed an effective and relatively inexpensive floatation media, allowing fine sediment to settle whilst simultaneously enabling floatation of dense polymers. The method was validated by artificially spiking sediment with low and high density microplastics, and its environmental relevance was further tested by extracting plastics present in natural sediment samples from sites ranging in sediment type; fine silt/clay (mean size 10.25 ± SD 3.02 μm) to coarse sand (mean size 149.3 ± SD 49.9 μm). The method presented here is cheap, reproducible and is easily portable, lending itself for use in the laboratory and in the field, eg. on board research vessels. By employing this method, accurate estimates of microplastic type, distribution and abundance in natural sediments can be achieved, with the potential to further our understanding of the availability of microplastics to benthic organisms.

Concepts: Lake, Sediment, Oceanography, Benthos, Abyssal plain, Gravel, Expense, Sediments


Soil degradation due to erosion is connected to two serious environmental impacts: (i) on-site soil loss and (ii) off-site effects of sediment transfer through the landscape. The potential impact of soil erosion processes on biogeochemical cycles has received increasing attention in the last two decades. Properly designed modelling assumptions on effective soil loss are a key pre-requisite to improve our understanding of the magnitude of nutrients that are mobilized through soil erosion and the resultant effects. The aim of this study is to quantify the potential spatial displacement and transport of soil sediments due to water erosion at European scale. We computed long-term averages of annual soil loss and deposition rates by means of the extensively tested spatially distributed WaTEM/SEDEM model. Our findings indicate that soil loss from Europe in the riverine systems is about 15% of the estimated gross on-site erosion. The estimated sediment yield totals 0.164 ± 0.013Pgyr-1 (which corresponds to 4.62 ± 0.37Mgha-1yr-1 in the erosion area). The greatest amount of gross on-site erosion as well as soil loss to rivers occurs in the agricultural land (93.5%). By contrast, forestland and other semi-natural vegetation areas experience an overall surplus of sediments which is driven by a re-deposition of sediments eroded from agricultural land. Combining the predicted soil loss rates with the European soil organic carbon (SOC) stock, we estimate a SOC displacement by water erosion of 14.5Tg yr-1. The SOC potentially transferred to the riverine system equals to 2.2Tgyr-1 (~15%). Integrated sediment delivery-biogeochemical models need to answer the question on how carbon mineralization during detachment and transport might be balanced or even off-set by carbon sequestration due to dynamic replacement and sediment burial.

Concepts: Sediment, Soil, Erosion, Silt, Surface runoff, Gravel, Geomorphology, Sediment transport


Boating activities are one of the causes that threaten seagrass meadows and the ecosystem services they provide. Mechanical destruction of seagrass habitats may also trigger the erosion of sedimentary organic carbon (Corg) stocks, which may contribute to increasing atmospheric CO2. This study presents the first estimates of loss of Corg stocks in seagrass meadows due to mooring activities in Rottnest Island, Western Australia. Sediment cores were sampled from seagrass meadows and from bare but previously vegetated sediments underneath moorings. The Corg stores have been compromised by the mooring deployment from 1930s onwards, which involved both the erosion of existing sedimentary Corg stores and the lack of further accumulation of Corg. On average, undisturbed meadows had accumulated ~6.4 Kg Corg m(-2) in the upper 50 cm-thick deposits at a rate of 34 g Corg m(-2) yr(-1). The comparison of Corg stores between meadows and mooring scars allows us to estimate a loss of 4.8 kg Corg m(-2) in the 50 cm-thick deposits accumulated over ca. 200 yr as a result of mooring deployments. These results provide key data for the implementation of Corg storage credit offset policies to avoid the conversion of seagrass ecosystems and contribute to their preservation.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Sediment, Sedimentary rock, Ecosystem, Erosion, Silt, Gravel, Rottnest Island


Land-based source pollutants (LBSP) actively threaten coral reef ecosystems globally. To achieve the greatest conservation outcome at the lowest cost, managers could benefit from appropriate tools that evaluate the benefits (in terms of LBSP reduction) and costs of implementing alternative land management strategies. Here we use a spatially explicit predictive model (InVEST-SDR) that quantifies change in sediment reaching the coast for evaluating the costs and benefits of alternative threat-abatement scenarios. We specifically use the model to examine trade-offs among possible agricultural road repair management actions (water bars to divert runoff and gravel to protect the road surface) across the landscape in West Maui, Hawaii, USA. We investigated changes in sediment delivery to coasts and costs incurred from management decision-making that is (1) cooperative or independent among landowners, and focused on (2) minimizing costs, reducing sediment, or both. The results illuminate which management scenarios most effectively minimize sediment while also minimizing the cost of mitigation efforts. We find targeting specific “hotspots” within all individual parcels is more cost-effective than targeting all road segments. The best outcomes are achieved when landowners cooperate and target cost-effective road repairs, however, a cooperative strategy can be counter-productive in some instances when cost-effectiveness is ignored. Simple models, such as the one developed here, have the potential to help managers make better choices about how to use limited resources.

Concepts: Game theory, Costs, Coral reef, Management, Cost, Cost-utility analysis, Gravel, Land management


The coastal marine ecosystem near the Elwha River was altered by a massive sediment influx-over 10 million tonnes-during the staged three-year removal of two hydropower dams. We used time series of bathymetry, substrate grain size, remotely sensed turbidity, scuba dive surveys, and towed video observations collected before and during dam removal to assess responses of the nearshore subtidal community (3 m to 17 m depth). Biological changes were primarily driven by sediment deposition and elevated suspended sediment concentrations. Macroalgae, predominantly kelp and foliose red algae, were abundant before dam removal with combined cover levels greater than 50%. Where persistent sediment deposits formed, macroalgae decreased greatly or were eliminated. In areas lacking deposition, macroalgae cover decreased inversely to suspended sediment concentration, suggesting impacts from light reduction or scour. Densities of most invertebrate and fish taxa decreased in areas with persistent sediment deposition; however, bivalve densities increased where mud deposited over sand, and flatfish and Pacific sand lance densities increased where sand deposited over gravel. In areas without sediment deposition, most invertebrate and fish taxa were unaffected by increased suspended sediment or the loss of algae cover associated with it; however, densities of tubeworms and flatfish, and primary cover of sessile invertebrates increased suggesting benefits of increased particulate matter or relaxed competition with macroalgae for space. As dam removal neared completion, we saw evidence of macroalgal recovery that likely owed to water column clearing, indicating that long-term recovery from dam removal effects may be starting. Our results are relevant to future dam removal projects in coastal areas and more generally to understanding effects of increased sedimentation on nearshore subtidal benthic communities.

Concepts: Algae, Sediment, Benthos, Gravel, Sediment transport, Benthic zone, Elwha River, Elwha Ecosystem Restoration


Rivers sourced in the Himalayan mountain range carry some of the largest sediment loads on the planet, yet coarse gravel in these rivers vanishes within approximately 10-40 kilometres on entering the Ganga Plain (the part of the North Indian River Plain containing the Ganges River). Understanding the fate of gravel is important for forecasting the response of rivers to large influxes of sediment triggered by earthquakes or storms. Rapid increase in gravel flux and subsequent channel bed aggradation (that is, sediment deposition by a river) following the 1999 Chi-Chi and 2008 Wenchuan earthquakes reduced channel capacity and increased flood inundation. Here we present an analysis of fan geometry, sediment grain size and lithology in the Ganga Basin. We find that the gravel fluxes from rivers draining the central Himalayan mountains, with upstream catchment areas ranging from about 350 to 50,000 square kilometres, are comparable. Our results show that abrasion of gravel during fluvial transport can explain this observation; most of the gravel sourced more than 100 kilometres upstream is converted into sand by the time it reaches the Ganga Plain. These findings indicate that earthquake-induced sediment pulses sourced from the Greater Himalayas, such as that following the 2015 Gorkha earthquake, are unlikely to drive increased gravel aggradation at the mountain front. Instead, we suggest that the sediment influx should result in an elevated sand flux, leading to distinct patterns of aggradation and flood risk in the densely populated, low-relief Ganga Plain.

Concepts: Sediment, River, India, River delta, Flood, Ganges, Himalayas, Gravel