Sediment desiccation is expected to drastically affect nutrient cycling in Mediterranean wetlands as global climate change models predict that many areas will become significantly drier than they currently are. In this study, we selected two Mediterranean wetlands that clearly differ in their water chemical composition (Honda and Hituelo wetlands) in order to determine the impact of sediment desiccation on phosphate (PO₄(3-)) adsorption and desorption properties. A decrease in PO₄(3-) sorption properties was observed in transects from the littoral zone to dry land in both lakes concomitantly with a reduction in organic matter content, revealing a critical role of organic matter for sequestering P in the lake sediment. Our experiments designed to determine if drying events would lead to an enhanced P release upon re-wetting have shown that, simulating natural conditions of re-flooding (that is without adding sodium azide), PO₄(3-) concentrations were notably higher in the overlying water than those initially measured in the lake water. These results highlight the impact of drying sediment and the subsequent re-wetting on increasing P concentrations in lake water and accordingly, affecting to lake trophic state. Finally, we aimed on determining the overall effect of biotic versus abiotic activity on P release patterns observed upon re-wetting. Our results have evidenced that while in Honda, biotic processes upon re-wetting are crucial for increasing P retention in the sediment; P exchange across sediment and water upon dry sediment re-wetting is basically mediated by abiotic processes in Hituelo.
Keywords: Climate change; Desiccation; Phosphorus; Sediment; Wetlands.
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