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Delta-associated molluscan life and death assemblages in the northern Adriatic Sea: implications for paleoecology, regional diversity and conservation
Weber, K.; Zuschin, M. (2013). Delta-associated molluscan life and death assemblages in the northern Adriatic Sea: implications for paleoecology, regional diversity and conservation. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 370: 77-91.
In: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Elsevier: Amsterdam; Tokyo; Oxford; New York. ISSN 0031-0182; e-ISSN 1872-616X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Recent; Mediterranean Sea; Gulf of Trieste; Diversity; Taphonomy; Paleoecology; Conservation Paleobiology

Authors  Top 
  • Weber, K.
  • Zuschin, M.

    Life–death (LD) studies of shelly macrofauna are important to evaluate how well a fossil assemblage can reflect the original living community, but can also serve as a proxy for recent ecological shifts in marine habitats and in practice this has to be distinguished using taphonomic preservation pattern and estimates of time-averaging. It remains to be rigorously evaluated, however, how to distinguish between sources of LD disagreement. In addition, death assemblages (DAs) also preserve important information on regional diversity which is not available from single censuses of the life assemblages (LAs). The northern Adriatic Sea is an ecosystem under anthropogenic pressure, and we studied the distribution and abundance of living and dead bivalve and gastropod species in the physically stressful environments (tidal flat and shallow sublittoral soft bottoms) associated with the delta of the Isonzo River (Gulf of Trieste). Specifically we evaluated the fidelity of richness, evenness, abundance, habitat discrimination and beta diversity. A total of 10,740 molluscs from fifteen tidal flat and fourteen sublittoral sites were analyzed for species composition and distribution of living and dead molluscs. Of 78 recorded species, only eleven were numerically abundant. There were many more dead than living individuals and rarefied species richness in the DA was higher at all spatial scales, but the differences are lower in habitats and in the region than at individual stations. Evenness was always higher in death assemblages, and probably due to temporally more variable LAs the differences are stronger in the sublittoral habitats. Distinct assemblages characterized intertidal and sublittoral habitats, and the distribution and abundance of empty shells generally corresponded to that of the living species. Death assemblages have lower beta diversity than life assemblages, but empty shells capture compositional differences between habitats to a higher degree than living shells. More samples would be necessary to account for the diversity of living molluscs in the study area, which is, however, well recorded in the death assemblages. There is no indication of a major environmental change over the last decades in this area, but due to the long history of anthropogenic pressure here, such a potential impact might be preserved in historical layers of the deeper sedimentary record.

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