Contrasting effects of an alien worm on benthic N cycling in muddy and sandy sediments.
The North American oligochaete Sparganophilus tamesis is widespread in European freshwaters. Its ecological effects on benthic nitrogen (N) biogeochemistry were studied in two contrasting environments: the organic-rich muddy sediments of the eutrophic Mincio River (Italy) and the organic-poor sandy sediments of the oligotrophic Cazaux-Sanguinet Lake (France). Oxygen and inorganic N fluxes and denitrification rates (IPT) were measured by dark incubation of intact cores with different worm biomass. Sediment oxygen demand and denitrification were higher in muddy than in sandy sediments; however, at the two sites, bioturbation by the oligochaetes stimulated differing microbial O2 and NO3- respiration and NH4+ production. In particular, the relative effect of S. tamesis on sediment metabolism was greater in Cazaux-Sanguinet Lake than in the Mincio River. As a result, S. tamesis favored net N loss in the Mincio River, whereas it increased NH4+ recycling and lowered denitrification efficiency in the Cazaux-Sanguinet Lake. Our results suggest that the effects of S. tamesis on N biogeochemistry might differ depending on local trophic settings. These results have implications for the conservation of isoetids in the French Lake, whose persistence can be menaced by oligochaete-induced nutrient mobilization.