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Impact of Arenicola marina (Polychaeta) on the microbial assemblages and meiobenthos in a marine intertidal flat
Lei, Y.; Stumm, K.; Volkenborn, N.; Wickham, S.A.; Berninger, Ulrike-G. (2010). Impact of Arenicola marina (Polychaeta) on the microbial assemblages and meiobenthos in a marine intertidal flat. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 157(6): 1271-1282.
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Lei, Y.
  • Stumm, K.
  • Volkenborn, N.
  • Wickham, S.A.
  • Berninger, Ulrike-G.

    The benthic microbial food web can be responsible for a large proportion of benthic carbon cycling yet there are few data on the trophic interactions between this food web and macrobenthos. A large-scale field experiment was conducted to investigate effects of eliminating the polychaete Arenicola marina on benthic microbes (prokaryotes, heterotrophic and autotrophic protists) and metazoan meiofauna in a marine intertidal flat of the North Sea, Germany. Over a period of 2 years, quantity and composition of micro- and meiobenthos from unmanipulated sites were compared to those from sites deplete of lugworms. These grazer treatments were cross-classified with different sediment characteristics (low- and mid-intertidal areas). Lugworm removal resulted in an initial increase in abundance of prokaryotes and nanoflagellates, which became less pronounced in the second year. Ciliates were not affected quantitatively, but in the absence of lugworms, diversity and the proportion of carnivorous forms increased. Meiobenthos (nematodes, ostracods and copepods) were affected only moderately. The observed changes are probably due to a combination of release from grazing/predation pressure, changes in the species composition of higher trophic levels (namely large polychaetes) and altered environmental conditions (such as depth of the oxygenated layer and sediment grain size). Spatial differences between sites of different tidal exposure/grain size appeared to be as large as temporal differences during the 2 years following the manipulation of the system. We conclude that in intertidal sediments, indirect effects due to habitat transformation are as important as direct biological interactions (grazing pressure and competition) for the dynamics of the benthic microbial food web.

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