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The structure and functional roles of tidal flat meiobenthos
Moens, T.; Moodley, L.; Steyaert, M.; Van Colen, C.; Van Oevelen, D.; Boschker, H.T.S.; Herman, P.M.J.; Middelburg, J.J.; Soetaert, K.; Ysebaert, T.; Vincx, M. (2011). The structure and functional roles of tidal flat meiobenthos, in: Heip, C. et al. (Ed.) Aspects of coastal research in contribution to LOICZ in the Netherlands and Flanders (2002-2010). LOICZ Research & Studies, 38: pp. 171-184
In: Heip, C.; Laane, R. (Ed.) (2011). Aspects of coastal research in contribution to LOICZ in the Netherlands and Flanders (2002-2010). LOICZ Research & Studies, 38. Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht: Geesthacht. 184 pp., more
In: LOICZ Research & Studies. LOICZ International Project Office: Den Burg. ISSN 1383-4304, more

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Meiobenthos; Tidal flats; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Moens, T., more
  • Moodley, L.
  • Steyaert, M., more
  • Van Colen, C., more
  • Van Oevelen, D.
  • Boschker, H.T.S., more
  • Herman, P.M.J.
  • Middelburg, J.J., more
  • Soetaert, K., more
  • Ysebaert, T., more
  • Vincx, M., more

Abstract
    Meiofauna comprise the smallest multicellular and largest unicellular metazoans in benthic food webs. They are highly abundant and species-rich, yet essential aspects of the factors driving their community structure and abundance remain poorly understood. Similarly, their functional roles in benthic carbon cycling remain poorly characterized and even more poorly quantified. In the frame of two projects, we addressed questions regarding both the biotic and abiotic factors that drive meiobenthic assemblage structure, and their roles in benthic carbon cycling. Our research involved an intricate combination of manipulative laboratory experiments and field work, the latter mostly focusing on the intertidal flats bordering the Paulina salt marsh in the Scheldt estuary. The results add considerably to our understanding of the factors that drive meiobenthic assemblage structure. They clearly demonstrate that biotic interactions among different meiofauna, and between meio- and macrofauna, are extremely important and moderate the impacts of prominent abiotic drivers of assemblage structure such as granulometry and oxygen availability. From a functional point of view, we demonstrated that tidal flat meiofauna rely predominantly on carbon derived from in situ primary production by microphytobenthos. Quantification of grazing rates of meiofauna on microphytobenthos and benthic bacteria does not, however, point at an important direct contribution of meiofauna to benthic carbon cycling. The role of meiobenthic species diversity remains to be established, but laboratory experiments into the role of nematodes in OM decomposition reveal that in addition to species identity, species diversity does have a significant, yet largely unpredictable effect on OM decomposition rates.

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