To understand and quantify how coastal ecosystems respond to environmental change and get a better picture of nutrient cycling in these coastal sediments, mechanistic modeling of benthic biogeochemical processes is required.

- In this new review, we discuss the present model capabilities to quantitatively describe how benthic fauna drives nutrient and carbon processing in the coastal zone, says first author Eva Ehrnsten, who is a postdoctoral researcher within the Baltic Bridge collaboration at the Baltic Sea Centre division. 

Major processes related to vegetation and fauna controlling benthic biogeochemical fluxes.
Major processes related to vegetation and fauna controlling benthic biogeochemical fluxes.
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There are a multitude of modeling approaches of different complexity of the role of benthic fauna in benthic-pelagic processes, but development of mechanistic descriptions are still hampered by our limited understanding of the diverse and complex interactions between the physical, chemical and biological processes that drive biogeochemical fluxes the coastal zone. The environment in shallow systems with long water residence times is especially sensitive to the activities of benthic organisms.

- Improving the description of benthic biomass and metabolism in models for these systems, such as sediment diagenetic and ecosystem models, is essential to increase our understanding of their response to environmental changes and the role of coastal sediments in nutrient and carbon cycling, says Eva Ehrnsten.  

The results showed three main challenges and research priorities: 

  1. to couple the dynamics of zoobenthic biomass and metabolism to sediment reactive-transport in models,
  2. to test and validate model formulations against real-world data to better incorporate the context-dependency of processes in heterogeneous coastal areas in models and
  3. to capture the role of stochastic events.