Marine sedimentary goods and services are linked to adjacent ecosystems, including the water column above, the coastal zone, and even freshwater systems (Figure 4.1; see also Chapter 1, Figure 1.1). Because they are open transitional systems between land and sea, estuaries and their associated biotic components have direct hydrological links to coastal seas and upland watersheds. Tides provide the principal natural vector for marine-derived inputs to estuaries and freshwater flows from surface or groundwater sources that convey materials, nutrients, and organisms from upland drainage basins.
Sedimentary inputs to estuaries may be from either marine or upland sources, whereas biological linkages occur through movement of organisms in and out of estuaries (Levin et al. 2001a). The food provision and food web supporting services of estuarine and shelf sediments are closely linked with the overlying pelagic realm and particularly their food webs (Steele 1974). Many benthic invertebrates and fishes spend the first part of their life cycle within the plankton, providing linkages with pelagic species through predator-prey interactions (Bullard et al. 1999). Among deep-sea taxa, this is true of many commercially harvested taxa such as snow crab, golden crab, armorhead, sable-fish, and grenadiers (Zheng & Kruse 2000). The terrestrial linkage of supplying estuaries and coasts with input of detritus and nutrients are also important to trophic support processes and food provision from estuarine through slope sediments.
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