Inorganic Carbon Turnover caused by Digestion of Carbonate Sands and Metabolic Activity of Holothurians
Schneider K, J Silverman, BS Kravitz, T Rivlin, A Schneider-Mor, S Barbosa, M Byrne, and K Caldeira. 2013. "Inorganic Carbon Turnover caused by Digestion of Carbonate Sands and Metabolic Activity of Holothurians." Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 133:217-223. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2013.08.029
Recent measurements have shown that holothurians (sea cucumbers) play an important role in the cycling of CaCO3 in tropical coral reef systems through ingestion and processing of carbonate sediment. In this study inorganic additional aspects of carbon turnover were determined in laboratory incubations of Holothuria atra, H. leucospilota and Stichopus herrmanni from One Tree Reef, Great Barrier Reef. The pH values of the gut lumen ranged from 6.1 to 6.7 in animals with empty digestive tracts as opposed to 7.0 to 7.6 when digestive tracts were filled with sediment. Empty gut volume estimates for H. atra and S. herrmanni were 36 ± 4 mL and 151 ± 14 mL, respectively. Based on these measurements it is estimated that these species process 19 ± 2kg and 80 ± 7kg CaCO3 sand yr-1 per individual, respectively. The annual dissolution rates of H. atra and S. herrmanni of 6.5±1.9g and 9.6±1.4g, respectively, suggest that 0.05±0.02% and 0.1±0.02% of the CaCO3 processed through their gut annually is dissolved. During the incubations the CaCO3 dissolution was 0.07±0.01%, 0.04±0.01% and 0.21±0.05% of the fecal casts for H. atra, H. leucospilota and S. herrmanni, respectively. The CaCO3 saturation state for both aragonite and calcite minerals during laboratory incubations decreased markedly due to a greater increase in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) relative to total alkalinity (AT) as a result of respiration by the animals. Our results support the hypothesis that deposit feeders such as sea cucumbers play an important ecological role in the coral reef CaCO3 cycle.