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Bioturbation processes and radionuclide transport in Baltic Sea sediments
Prof Ragnar Elmgren
Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences
EU Fifth Framework Programme - Euratom
The turnover and irrigation of sediments by animals (bioturbation) is important for sediment biogeochemistry and nutrient status and for the storage or release of pollutants. Baltic Sea sediments store large amounts of pollutants, including radio nuclides. As anti-pollution measures in Baltic countries take effect, water quality is improving, but cleaner wat will set up stronger gradients for diffusion of stored radio nuclides, and this will be enhanced by surface sediment turnover by benthic infauna, which can be present in very high densities. Also, slight increases in oxygen will a low bioturbators to recolonise currently anoxic sea beds, re-oxygenating the sediments and potentially releasing stored pollutants. This project will quantify bioturbation and determine its importance in radio nuclide transport in Baltic sediments. Tracer studies in bioturbated sediments will track particle and radio nuclide movement in the field, and determine the relative importance of bioturbation and physical processes. A series of laboratory experiments will quantify the importance of bioturbation in radio nuclide transport under different environmental conditions. The sediment-water and anoxic-oxic interfaces will be a focus, as these are critical in sediment chemistry, material fluxes and benthic-pelagic coupling. Field and lab results together will build on, and add to, existing models developed by the host institute, increasing their power explain and predict radionuclide fluxes.
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