Journal of Marine Biology & Oceanography ISSN: 2324-8661

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Main Ecological Features of Benthic Macrofauna in Mediterranean and Atlantic Intertidal Eelgrass Beds: A Comparative Study

Main Ecological Features of Benthic Macrofauna in Mediterranean and Atlantic Intertidal Eelgrass Beds: A Comparative Study

The present study compares the intertidal eelgrass macrofauna in two geographically and ecologically disparate localities (central Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic). Both coastal ecosystems are developed on extensive large mudflats with eelgrass beds, hosting a great diversity of water birds and providing important socio-economic assets. These two distinct and distant geographical ecosystems are affected by numerous anthropogenic pressures. By reflecting the response of the structure and functioning of benthic communities to climate change, the two eelgrass ecosystems provide a natural laboratory to investigate global warming. The macrobenthic fauna community of Zostera (Zosterella) noltei eelgrass beds was studied by sampling 34 stations in the Kneiss Islands and 48 stations in Arcachon Bay. A total of 148 species are identified in the Kneiss islands and 117 species in Arcachon Bay, but only 23 species are common to both ecosystems. Diversity, abundance and community structure are significantly different between the two study areas, which could be explained by differences between Mediterranean and Atlantic climatic conditions and by anthropic factors (e.g. fishing pressure, pollution, nutrient inputs) affecting each ecosystem. Multidimensional scaling (n-MDS) analysis identifies two distinct geographical station groups on the basis of species and familylevel abundance. On the contrary, three assemblages are identified on the basis of trophic groups distributed between the separate ecosystems. In terms of ecological quality status, the Kneiss site appears to have a good ecological condition and hosts a variety of sensitive species. On the other hand, biotic indices indicate that the Arcachon site is moderately perturbed and that the benthic communities are unbalanced. It is expected that the present-day functioning of the Kneiss Islands ecosystem will become typical of the situation in Arcachon Bay in several decades time, with the development of warmer and drier conditions.

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