Organic carbon cycling in abyssal benthic food chains: numerical simulations of bioenhancement by sewage sludge Academic Article uri icon


  • The hypothetical bioenhancement of the endemic benthic biota on an oligotrophic abyssal plain by organic carbon has been investigated with mathematical simulation experiments. First, the responses of the biomass and respiration to seasonal variations in the rain of organic carbon (POC) have been simulated in a simplified benthic assemblage (sediment organic carbon, sediment-dwelling heterotrophs (bacteria, meiofauna, macrofauna and detritus feeding megafauna) and predatory megafauna), with no added organic matter. These calculations were based on measured standing stocks and respiration in the central North Pacific (5.8 km depth, 31N Lat. x 159W Long.). The dynamic relationships in this natural 'oligotrophic' food chain were then subjected to added inputs of organic carbon presumed to be in sewage sludge. Two examples are presented: a modest but continuous input of Organic carbon (100 mg C m-2 d-1) and a year-long pulse of the same intensity. The continuous input forced the biomass and community respiration to steadily increase until they reached steady state in 15 years at values similar to those found on a typical continental shelf. The pulse exhibited the same pattern, but biomass and respiration returned to levels found under natural oligotrophic conditions several years after cessation of intensified carbon loading. The responses of the sediment community to added organic matter were validated using information from a deep-ocean sewage disposal site (DWD106) off the coast of New Jersey. The models are also used to illustrate an approach for estimating possible transfers of potentially toxic contaminants, such as total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (tPAHs), in lipid-rich eggs. In the future it will be necessary to validate model results with deep-ocean in situ experiments.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Rowe, G. T.

citation count

  • 6

complete list of authors

  • Rowe, GT

publication date

  • May 1998