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ABSTRACT

Laboratory experiments indicate that clay particles of the <2-üm fraction can be considerably degraded by the bivalve Mytilus edulis: dickite, kaolinite, smectite, chlorite and illite particles are partially dissolved and rounded by the digestive processes. Structural changes and a decrease in crystallinity of kaolinites, dickites and illites are striking.

Investigations of clay minerals from tidal flat sediments highly populated by marine invertebrates, from marine suspensions and samples from profiles across Mytilis edulis beds on the North Sea coast of Germany show, however, that these materials have a uniform mineral composition. This uniformity of clay mineralogy can be explained by the hydrodynamic conditions in the nearshore area, where tidal currents and waves cause a periodic resuspension and transport of sediments introduced into the Wadden Sea from different sources (glacial, fluviatile). Processes of bioturbation also redistribute the sedimentary material. These mixing processes effectively erase any evidence of local enrichment of the biogenically degraded clays. However, the disordered clays should react more sensitively (i.e. have higher adsorption capacities for organic substances, hydroxides and metals) in sediments than untreated materials, so that biodegradation is of basic importance for clay diagenesis. During these processes, Pb, V, Ni and Fe are dissolved from the digested particles.