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Scale-dependent patterns of macrofaunal distribution in soft-sediment intertidal habitats along a large-scale estuarine gradient
Giménez, L.; Borthagaray, A.I.; Rodríguez, M.; Brazeiro, A.; Dimitriadis, C. (2005). Scale-dependent patterns of macrofaunal distribution in soft-sediment intertidal habitats along a large-scale estuarine gradient. Helgol. Mar. Res. 59(3): 224-236.
In: Helgoland Marine Research. Springer: Berlin; Heidelberg. ISSN 1438-387X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Biodiversity; Estuarine organisms; Macrobenthos; Spatial distribution; Heteromastus similis Southern, 1921 [WoRMS]; Laeonereis acuta; Nephtys fluviatilis Monro, 1937 [WoRMS]; PSW, Rio de la Plata [Marine Regions]; Uruguay [Marine Regions]; Marine; Fresh water

Authors  Top 
  • Giménez, L.
  • Borthagaray, A.I.
  • Rodríguez, M.
  • Brazeiro, A.
  • Dimitriadis, C.

    We investigated the pattern of distribution of intertidal soft-bottom fauna in streams and lagoons of the Uruguayan coast at three spatial scales. The Rio de la Plata and the Atlantic Ocean produce on this coast a large-scale gradient in salinity, defining a freshwater (west), an estuarine (central) and a marine (east) region. Within each region, there are several streams and coastal lagoons (sites) that define a second scale of variability. A third scale is given by intertidal gradients within each site. Species richness and total abundance was low in the freshwater west region and high in the central and east regions. The community in the west region was characterized by the clam Curbicula fluminea; in the other regions, it was dominated mainly by the polychaete Heteromastus similiis. The polychaete Nephtys fluviatilis was more abundant in the east region, while another polychaete, Laeonereis acuta, characterized the central region. Sediment fractions did not vary significantly at this scale. At the scale of the sites, species richness and total macrofaunal abundance were higher in coastal lagoons than in streams. Coarse sands were more common in coastal lagoons, while medium and fine sand characterized the sediment in streams. Within each site, species richness and total abundance increased towards the lower intertidal level; the macrofauna of the upper levels were a subsample of the fauna occurring at the lower levels. There was also a significantly lower proportion of fine sand at the upper level. At regional scales, the observed patterns may be indirectly or directly related to the gradient in salinity, through differential physiological tolerance to osmotic stress. At the scale of the sites, variability may be explained mainly by geomorphological and sedimentological differences between lagoons and streams. Variation among levels may be related to gradients in desiccation, colonization and predation.

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