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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Effects of an invasive polychaete on benthic phosphorus cycling at sea basin scale: An ecosystem disservice

Sandman, Antonia Nystroem; Naeslund, Johan; Gren, Ing-Marie; Norling, Karl


Macrofaunal activities in sediments modify nutrient fluxes in different ways including the expression of species-specific functional traits and density-dependent population processes. The invasive polychaete genus Marenzelleria was first observed in the Baltic Sea in the 1980s. It has caused changes in benthic processes and affected the functioning of ecosystem services such as nutrient regulation. The large-scale effects of these changes are not known. We estimated the current Marenzelleria spp. wet weight biomass in the Baltic Sea to be 60-87kton (95% confidence interval). We assessed the potential impact of Marenzelleria spp. on phosphorus cycling using a spatially explicit model, comparing estimates of expected sediment to water phosphorus fluxes from a biophysical model to ecologically relevant experimental measurements of benthic phosphorus flux. The estimated yearly net increases (95% CI) in phosphorous flux due to Marenzelleria spp. were 4.2-6.1kton based on the biophysical model and 6.3-9.1kton based on experimental data. The current biomass densities of Marenzelleria spp. in the Baltic Sea enhance the phosphorus fluxes from sediment to water on a sea basin scale. Although high densities of Marenzelleria spp. can increase phosphorus retention locally, such biomass densities are uncommon. Thus, the major effect of Marenzelleria seems to be a large-scale net decrease in the self-cleaning capacity of the Baltic Sea that counteracts human efforts to mitigate eutrophication in the region.


Benthic-pelagic coupling; Ecosystem services; Eutrophication; Invasive species; Nutrient cycling

Published in

AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment
2018, Volume: 47, number: 8, pages: 884-892
Publisher: SPRINGER

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG14 Life below water

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Management

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