Fine sediment and particulate organic matter: A review and case study on ridge-to-reef transport, transformations, fates, and impacts on marine ecosystems
Abstract Studies documenting the effects of land-derived suspended particulate matter (SPM, i.e., particulate organic matter and mineral sediment) on marine ecosystems are typically disconnected from terrestrial studies that determine their origin, transport and fate. This study reviews sources, transport, transformations, fate and effects of SPM along the ‘ridge-to-reef’ continuum. We show that some of the SPM can be transported over long distances and transformed into large and easily resuspendible organic-rich sediment flocs. These flocs may lead to prolonged reductions in water clarity, impacting upon coral reef, seagrass and fish communities. Using the Great Barrier Reef (NE Australia) as a case study, we identify the latest research tools to determine thresholds of SPM exposure, allowing for an improved appreciation of marine risk. These tools are used to determine ecologically-relevant end-of-basin load targets and reliable marine water quality guidelines, thereby enabling enhanced prioritisation and management of SPM export from ridge-to-reef.