In shallow water ecosystems, the functioning of benthic compartment depends on the interactions between the physico-chemical environment and the community of micro and macroorganisms. This environment displays steep redox gradients and multiple interfaces, where fully oxic layers may be adjacent to sulfidic sediments. The biological communities have evolved adaptations, creating a network of coupled processes and multiple feedbacks. The sedimentary environment is complex and difficult to colonize but is full of opportunities for organisms, as it may be more stable than the water column, and it may receive a large flux of energy.
My main research focused on some aspects of the benthic system functioning (bsf) along gradients including light, nutrient availability and those of species or functional diversity. The ecological interactions between trophic levels and physical environment create the complexity, whereas the functioning here refers to organic matter mineralization, nutrient cycling and transport across sediment-water interface. Benthic animals create horizontal and vertical heterogeneities in sediments and affect the benthic-pelagic coupling through their bioturbation activities. Bioturbation affects the heterotrophic component of benthic system, but also primary producers growth.
AIM: understanding the effects of microbes, macrofauna and primary producers on benthic system processes along multiple environmental gradients.
HYPOTHESIS: a complex benthic system exploits better the available resources by increasing nutrient recycling and decreasing nutrient import or loss.