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Biogeochemistry of metals in aquatic sediments is strongly influenced by bioturbation. To determine the effects of biological transport on cadmium distribution in freshwater sediments, a bioturbation model is explored that describes the conveyor-belt feeding of tubificid oligochaetes. A stepwise modelling strategy was adopted to constrain the many parameters of the model: (i) the tubificid transport model was first calibrated on four sets of microspheres (inert solid tracer) profiles to constrain tubificid transport; (ii) the resulting transport coefficients were subsequently applied to simulate the distribution of both particulate and dissolved cadmium. Firstly, these simulations provide quantitative insight into the mechanism of tubificid bioturbation. Values of transport coefficients compare very well with the literature, and based on this, a generic model of tubificid bioturbation is proposed. Secondly, the application of the model to cadmium dataset sheds a light on the behaviour of cadmium under tubificid bioturbation. Cadmium enters the sediment in two ways. In one pathway, cadmium enters the sediment in the dissolved phase, is rapidly absorbed onto solid particles, which are then rapidly transported to depth by the tubificids. In the other pathway, cadmium is adsorbed to particles in suspension in the overlying water, which then settle on the sediment surface, and are transported downwards by bioturbation. In a final step, we assessed the optimal model complexity for the present dataset. To this end, the two-phase conveyor-belt model was compared to two simplified versions. A solid phase-only conveyor-belt model also provides good results: the dissolved phase should not be explicitly incorporated because cadmium adsorption is fast and bioirrigation is weak. Yet, a solid phase-only biodiffusive model does not perform adequately, as it does not mechanistically capture the conveyor-belt transport at short time-scales.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)844-862
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007

ID: 109747