January Habitat Highlight - Mysterious Marine Sediments

What lurks on the sea bed? We all know who lives under a pineapple under the sea... Don’t we? Well... What if I told you the seemingly boring marine sediment which covers the ocean floor has many super powers that even Superman (or woman because it’s 2021 and there’s so many super women out there!) would be impressed?! Well, read on ahead and find out!

Marine sediment is pretty old, like thousands of years old! It’s been created by a mixture of dead phytoplankton, sand, and silt. It can be found all over the world, but seeing as we are the GLASGOW University Sea Society, I’ll be mainly focus on Scotland’s own oceans!

Marine sediment is found in a range of places, from fjords, to the ocean! The largest areas of marine sediment are found in the Moray Firth and the Orkney Islands (but check out the map below!) They also are found in a range of forms… like anoxic mud, cobble, and extremely fine clays! These wide variety of forms mean that they provide a habitat for many species of benthic microfauna (small organisms that live on the sea floor - who potentially also know who lives in the pineapple under the sea), which also allows the opportunity for foraging to take place and support higher trophic levels (fish, birds that eat the fish, whales)! So y’know, pretty important!


Interesting fact I learnt from researching marine sediments further… Scotland has 111 fjords! Crazy?! 111?! 100% adding seeing all of them to my bucket list (when we can actually travel out of our postcode area!)

You’re currently thinking, what other super powers could this habitat have?! I’m right, aren’t I? Well sit yourself down and swallow you’re hot beverage because you’ll be surprised...

Marine sediments are heavily underrated and severely underappreciated in the fight against climate change. If you read our December Habitat Highlight on Maerl Beds you’ll know that they are an important player in blue carbon storage... Well… Scottish marine sediments store ~7.2 million tonnes of organic carbon and ~0.5 million tonnes of inorganic carbon a year! The carbon they trap can be stored for >103 years! If you don’t find that MIND BLOWING then I’m not sure what you would find mind blowing (maybe those MASSIVE Toblerone bars from Duty Free but you’re not gonna get those for a long time).

Unfortunately, like many superheroes, marine sediments have nemesis that threaten their existence! Dredging is a major threat as it breaks down and disrupts the sedimentation and carbon storage (as well as threatening other important ecological processes). Like many other habitats, the greatest threat to our generation (not COVID-19 or technology), ‘Climate Change’ increases the temperatures of the globe and consequently the oceans. In relation to marine sediments, the temperature change can cause important bacteria populations (which are key in the role of carbon storage) to plummet. HOWEVER, with the increased recognition and implementation of MPA’s, the future of marine sediment, and many other habitats can be rejuvenated/conserved.


More Info

What Ocean Sediments Reveal About Climate Change - YouTube

Remember to just keep swimming: