Biomediation of sediment gravity flow dynamics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Electronic versions


  • 2019 Biomediation

    Accepted author manuscript, 1 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 5/10/99

Sediment gravity flows are the primary process by which sediment and organic carbon are transported from the continental margin to the deep ocean. Up to 40% of the total marine organic cabon pool is represented by cohesive extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) produced by micro-organisms. The effect of these polymers on sediment gravity flows has not been investigated, despite the economic and societal importance of these flows. We present the first EPS concentrations measured in deep-sea sediment, combined with novel laboratory data that offer insights into the modulation of the dynamics of clay-laden, physically cohesive sediment gravity flows by biological cohesion. We show that EPS can profoundly affect the character, evolution and run-out of sediment gravity flows, and are as prevalent in deep oceans as in shallow seas. Transitional and laminar plug flows are more susceptible to EPS-induced changes in flow properties than turbulent flows. At relatively low concentrations, EPS markedly decrease the head velocity and run-out distance of transitional flows. This biological cohesion is greater, per unit weight, than the physical cohesion of cohesive clay and may exert a stronger control on flow behavior. These results significantly improve our understanding of the effect of an unrealized biological component of sediment gravity flows. The implications are wide ranging and may influence predictive models of sediment gravity flows and advance our understanding how these flows transport and bury organic carbon globally.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 Oct 2019
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