Contaminant fluxes from sediment due to Tubificid oligochaete bioturbation

D. D. Reible, V. Popov, K. T. Valsaraj, L. J. Thibodeaux, F. Lin, M. Dikshit, M. A. Todaro, J. W. Fleeger

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The release of the hydrophobic organic compounds pyrene, dibenzofuran and phenanthrene from bioturbated freshwater sediments was studied in laboratory microcosms. Initial Tubificid oligochaete densities of 0, 6700 and 2.67 x 104 individuals·m-2 were employed. Under oxygen saturated conditions, the difference between the contaminant fluxes from the high-density bioturbated microcosms and controls remained essentially constant at 37 and 70 ng·cm-2·d-1 for pyrene and phenanthrene, respectively, corresponding to effective mass transfer coefficients of 0.16 and 0.37 cm/y. Under hypoxic conditions, worm defecation on the sediment surface increased and led to significantly increased fluxes to a maximum of 380, 490 and 940 ng·cm-2·d-1 for pyrene, phenanthrene and dibenzofuran, respectively. Average bioturbation fluxes in the high-density microcosms of 246, 258 and 310 ng·cm-2·d-1 for the respective compounds corresponded to effective mass transfer coefficients of 1.7, 3.2, and 7.5 cm/yr. Initial release rates from medium-density microcosms (25% of high density) were typically half the release rate of the high-density microcosms, indicating greater organism activity per individual at the lower density. The increased flux with the more soluble compounds likely reflects more rapid release at the sediment surface and the increased importance of porewater pumping over sediment particle reworking for migration of these compounds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)704-714
Number of pages11
JournalWater Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Bioturbation
  • Contaminant flux
  • PAH
  • Sediment
  • Tubificid oligochaetes


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