Seeing the unseen-bioturbation in 4D: Tracing bioirrigation in marine sediment using positron emission tomography and computed tomography

Matthieu Delefosse, Erik Kristensen, Diane Crunelle, Poul Erik Braad, Johan Hygum Dam, Helge Thisgaard, Anders Thomassen, Poul Flemming Høilund-Carlsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Understanding spatial and temporal patterns of bioirrigation induced by benthic fauna ventilation is critical given its significance on benthic nutrient exchange and biogeochemistry in coastal ecosystems. The quantification of this process challenges marine scientists because faunal activities and behaviors are concealed in an opaque sediment matrix. Here, we use a hybrid medical imaging technique, positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) to provide a qualitative visual and fully quantitative description of bioirrigation in 4D (space and time). As a study case, we present images of porewater advection induced by the well-studied lugworm (Arenicola marina). Our results show that PET/CT allows more comprehensive studies on ventilation and bioirrigation than possible using techniques traditionally applied in marine ecology. We provide a dynamic three-dimensional description of bioirrigation by the lugworm at very high temporal and spatial resolution. Results obtained with the PET/CT are in agreement with literature data on lugworm ventilation and bioirrigation. Major advantages of PET/CT over methods commonly used are its non-invasive and non-destructive approach and its capacity to provide information that otherwise would require multiple methods. Furthermore, PET/CT scan is versatile as it can be used for a variety of benthic macrofauna species and sediment types and it provides information on burrow morphology or animal behavior. The lack of accessibility to the expensive equipment is its major drawback which can only be overcome through collaboration among several institutions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume10
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)1-17
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 4. Apr 2015

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