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Wood decay at sea

Abstract : The oceans and seas receive coarse woody debris since the Devonian, but the kinetics of wood degradation remains one of many unanswered questions about the fate of driftwood in the marine environment. A simple gravimetric experiment was carried out at a monitoring station located at the exit of a steep, forested Mediterranean watershed in the Eastern Pyrenees. The objective was to describe and quantify, with standardized logs (in shape, structure and constitution), natural degradation of wood in the sea. Results show that the mass decrease of wood logs over time can be described by a sigmoidal curve. The primary process of wood decay observed at the monitoring station was due to the arrival and installation of wood-boring species that consumed more than half of the total wood mass in six months. Surprisingly, in a region where there is little remaining wood marine infrastructure, “shipworms”, i.e. xylophagous bivalves, are responsible for an important part of this wood decay. This suggests that these communities are maintained probably by a frequent supply of a large quantity of riparian wood entering the marine environment adjacent to the watershed. By exploring this direct link between terrestrial and marine ecosystems, our long term objective is to determine how these supplies of terrestrial organic carbon can sustain wood-based marine communities as it is observed in the Mediterranean Sea.
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François Charles, Jennifer Coston-Guarini, Jean-Marc Guarini, Sandrine Fanfard. Wood decay at sea. Journal of Sea Research (JSR), Elsevier, 2016, 114, pp.22-25. ⟨10.1016/j.seares.2016.05.002⟩. ⟨hal-01321467⟩

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