Patterns of abundance of seagrasses and associated infaunal communities at Inhaca Island, Mozambique

Author(s): Paula J, Fidalgo Ecosta P, Gove D


This study was conducted at Inhaca Island, south Mozambique, and focused on three different seagrass associations, dominated respectively by Thalassodendron ciliatum, Thalassia hemprichii and Zostera capensis. The main objective of this study was to compare the three seagrass associations, in what concerns vegetal and associated infaunal communities biomass. The approach was a nested design, which intended to provide information on seasonal effects and variability at decreasing spatial scales. Nested ANOVA was performed for all biological and porewater parameters and a cluster analysis of different biotic and abiotic parameters was performed. Nutrient concentration was consistently higher during the dry period as well as mean values of organic matter. Consistently lower values of chlorophyll a (chl a) were obtained at T. hemprichii meadow sites and the highest values were found at Z. capensis meadow. Phaeopigments have shown an opposite pattern when compared to chl a, and average values were consistently higher during the dry season. There were no net differences of seagrass standing crop during both sampled seasons, however at meadow level major differences were found, and higher biomass was obtained at T. ciliatum meadow, followed by T. hemprichii. Mean values of epibiota have shown that higher biomass was obtained at T. ciliatum meadow, the remaining meadows presented very low values. Meiofauna biomass showed fluctuations between seagrass meadows, stations and also between seasons. Macrofauna biomass showed clear fluctuations between seasons, being strongly more homogeneous during the dry season and highly variable in the wet season. ANOVA results have shown different significance at the different levels of the analysis, suggesting different spatial and temporal patterns and interactions between parameters. The dendrogram produced two main groups of variables, the first one comprised of OM, phaeopigments, nitrites, nitrates, meiofauna, grain size and chl a. The second group comprises pH, macrofauna, ammonia, both seagrass components and epibiota on above-ground seagrass fraction. These two groups of parameters may correspond to different functional components of the seagrass ecosystem. The sediment biotic structure seems largely dependent on detritus-based chains, and has a high degree of spatial variability. On the other hand, macrofauna seems to be more related to the direct influence of seagrass standing crop, probably caused by the increased habitat complexity provided by higher seagrass biomass.

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