How are the bottom substrate and water column habitats linked? How does this coupling affect the functioning of the ecosystem and how sensitive is it to human pressures?
Benthic–pelagic coupling, the exchange of inorganic and organic matter between the bottom substrate and the water column, is prominent in aquatic ecosystems. However, there are large gaps in our understanding of this linkage, especially in the coastal and estuarine ecosystems where structure and function are strongly affected by anthropogenic pressures. Here, we use the Baltic Sea as a case study to summarise and illustrate the varied nature of physical and biological benthic–pelagic coupling processes and their potential sensitivity to climate change, nutrient loading, and fishing. Changing oxygen conditions will continue to have widespread effects on the processes that govern inorganic and organic matter exchange among habitats while climate change and nutrient load reductions may have large effects on organic matter sedimentation. We provide examples of how biological processes are sensitive to anthropogenic drivers, but the outcomes for ecosystem function are largely unknown. Lastly, we emphasize how improved empirical and experimental understanding of benthic–pelagic coupling processes is necessary to inform models that can quantify the feedbacks among processes and ecosystem responses to a changing world.
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Griffith J., Kadin M., Nascimnento F.J.A., Tamelander T., Törnroos A., Bonaglia S., Bonsdorff E., Büchert V., Gårdmanrk A., Järnström M., Kotta J., Lindegren M., Nordström M.C., Norkko A., Olsson J., Weigel B., Zydelis R., Blenckner T., Niiranen S., Winder M., 2017. The importance of benthic-pelagic coupling for marine ecosystem functioning in a changing world. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.13642