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Defining the impact of physical disturbances on macrobenthic community structure and ecosystem functioning for the conservation and management of estuarine environments
Ainley, L. (2010). Defining the impact of physical disturbances on macrobenthic community structure and ecosystem functioning for the conservation and management of estuarine environments. MSc Thesis. Erasmus Mundus Master of Science in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (EMBC)/University of St. Andrews: Scotland. 76 pp.

Thesis info:

Available in  Author 
  • VLIZ: Archive A.THES11 [220713]
  • VLIZ: Non-open access 230600
Document type: Dissertation

Keyword
    Marine

Author  Top 
  • Ainley, L.

Abstract
    Changes to ecosystem functioning and community structure raise important questions in terms of conservation and management, especially those questions which take a holistic perspective of the ecosystem. Disturbances are an important source of change in marine ecosystems. The impact of disturbances on biological communities is a developing area of research and has scarcely been considered for conservation planning and management strategies. The Eden Estuary is located on the east coast of Scotland, UK and has been identified as a site of bait digging for the lugworm Arenicola marina. Bait digging is an anthropogenic disturbance which impacts multiple components (both physical and biological) of the local ecosystem. This impact was investigated through three primary components of the ecosystem: macrofaunal community structure; primary productivity; and sediment stability. Results indicate that the community structure is influenced by the by the physical impact of bait digging more directly than the removal of Arenicola marina. Measurements indicate that biodiversity increased following the disturbance event which appears consistent with the Intermediate Disturbance Hypothesis (IDH). Primary productivity was reduced due to the re-working of the sediment involved in the bait digging disturbance. Sediment shear strength decreased due to the physical action of bait digging but this effect was enhanced by the presence of A. marina highlighting its role as a sediment destabiliser. In response to the disturbance, some of the measurements demonstrate indications of recovery during the study period. However, recovery was not explicitly investigated in this study and more data is required to describe the recovery process for the Eden Estuary in greater detail.

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