1 Department of Biological Sciences, Microbiology, Faculty of Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus University2 Center for Geomicrobiology, Faculty of Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus University3 unknown4 Department of Bioscience - Center for Geomicrobiology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University5 Department of Bioscience - Center for Geomicrobiology, Department of Bioscience, Science and Technology, Aarhus University
Ecosystem function recovery and benthic community recovery was investigated after experimentally induced depleted oxygen bottom water concentrations in a tidal mudflat (Paulinapolder, Westerschelde estuary). Macrofauna recovery developed through different succession stages and was structured by facilitative and inhibitive interactions: early colonizers had a positive effect on subsequent colonizers, while later succession species negatively affected the stable conditions created by the early colonizing tube-builders. Transitions between different stages were related to changes in environmental characteristics and biotic-environmental interactions (e.g. exploitation competition for food). Nematode community -and biogeochemical recovery were related to macrobenthic succession. Dense polychaete tube aggregations and the development of a fresh diatom bloom, as a result of the low grazing pressure by surface deposit feeding macrofauna during the first stage, stabilized the sediment and thereby enhanced macrobenthic and nematode recruitment success. Bioturbation impact of later succession species increased oxygen input in the sediment, resulting in an enhanced nitrification, denitrification and energy use.