Sediment grain-size

Sediment grain-size is often assumed to be a key driver of infaunal communities (McArthur et al. 2010). Gravel, sand and mud all have different properties that may affect the species and abundances of infaunal animals present. Sediments dominated by gravel (> 2 mm) have the greatest degree of 3-D structure, permeability and the largest interstitial spaces, thereby offering shelter from predators and strong currents, particularly for cryptic species (Brown et al. 2001). Sediments dominated by sand (63 μm - 2 mm) provide an intermediate habitat whereby loosely packed particles maximise oxygen penetration while allowing organisms to easily burrow for shelter or food. Sediments dominated by mud (< 63 μm) often contain detrital minerals and have high organic content but have reduced oxygen penetration meaning appropriate habitat is limited to the upper few centimetres for most species. While the influence of grain size properties (e.g. percentage mud, mean grain size) on infaunal assemblages and distributions is clear in some studies (e.g. (Long and Poiner 1994) in Gulf of Carpentaria), in others it has been shown to be weak (e.g. in (Przeslawski et al. 2013) on the Carnarvon Shelf) or non-existent (e.g. (Currie et al. 2009) in the Great Australian Bight). Sediment grain-size is likely to be one of several physical factors, such as seabed sediment mobility, deposit-feeding potential, turbidity and the potential for attachment, that are important regulators of infaunal biodiversity (Snelgrove and Butman 1994).

Use the interactive map below to explore how sediment grain-size varies around Australia's coastline.

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