Heterogeneity of macrozoobenthic assemblages within a Zostera noltii seagrass bed: diversity, abundance, biomass and structuring factors

Author(s): Blanchet H, de Montaudouin X, Lucas A, Chardy P


The macrobenthic fauna community of a 70-km2 Zostera noltii seagrass bed (Arcachon bay, France) was studied by sampling 49 stations systematically. A total of 126 taxa were identified. Cluster Analysis based on χ2 distance showed that in this apparently homogeneous habitat, four distinct macrobenthic communities could be identified. Multiple Discriminant Analysis highlighted the major contribution of the overlying water mass as a forcing variable, and, to a lesser extent, of tidal level and Z. noltii's below-ground parts. Seven stations did not constitute any conspicuous group, and were characterized by a low biomass of leaf (<28 g DW m−2), considered as the lowest value to constitute a Z. noltii community. Less than 24% of the seagrass bed was situated in more oceanic waters and at a quite low tidal level. In this relatively stable environment, the macrofauna community was characterized by a high species richness (mean = 39) and a moderate density and high biomass (12 638 individuals m−2 and 25 g AFDW m−2, respectively). Annelids dominated, particularly the oligochaetes. When physical constraints increased (emersion or brackish water conditions), diversity decreased, abundance and biomass increased. The seagrass bed (55%) was flooded with highly fluctuating waters in term of temperature and salinity, here species richness was low (mean = 27) but abundance and biomass were high (24 384 individuals m−2 and 28 g AFDW m−2, respectively), with a dominance of molluscs. The meadow (7%) was in external waters but at a higher tidal level (2.4 m vs 1.8 m above medium low tide level). This community was characterized by the particularly high density (41 826 individuals m−2) and dominance of oligochaetes (79% of total abundance). Species richness was high (mean = 37) here. A fourth community, extending over 12% of the meadow was dominated by the gastropod Hydrobia ulvae but could not be linked to a specific forcing variable. This study confirmed the almost complete replacement of the native clam Ruditapes decussatus by the Manila clam Ruditapes philippinarum since its introduction in the 1980s.

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