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Historical trends of benthic invertebrate biodiversity spanning 182 years in a southern New England estuary
Hale, S.S.; Buffum, H.W. (2018). Historical trends of benthic invertebrate biodiversity spanning 182 years in a southern New England estuary. Est. Coast. 41(6): 1525-1538.
In: Estuaries and Coasts. Estuarine Research Federation: Port Republic, Md.. ISSN 1559-2723; e-ISSN 1559-2731, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Marine benthic invertebrates, Biodiversity, Taxonomic distinctness, Historical trends, Narragansett Bay

Authors  Top 
  • Hale, S.S.
  • Buffum, H.W.

    Benthic invertebrates support numerous ecosystem functions and services including shellfish production, energy flow to fishes, and biogeochemical cycles. The decline of marine biodiversity worldwide has raised concerns about effects on ecosystems. To examine biodiversity trends of Narragansett Bay over time, a list was compiled of all benthic invertebrate species collected from the bay since 1834. The list covers 104 studies spanning 182 years and currently holds 1214 unique taxa from 21 phyla, the majority of all animal phyla on Earth. A permuted estimator of number of species suggested there are about 300 more yet to be discovered. Widely varying sampling gear and sieve mesh sizes precluded the use of abundance data. Instead, multidimensional scaling and taxonomic distinctness were used with presence-absence data to examine biodiversity trends. The changes in community composition and decline of benthic biodiversity (p < 0.01) since 1855 are what would be expected of a community that gradually deteriorated in the face of increasing anthropogenic stressors. Taxonomic distinctness had negative correlations (p < 0.05) with human population in the watershed, total nitrogen inputs, and inputs of metals. This loss of benthic biodiversity has implications for ecosystem functions and services. As some of the stressors waned in the last two or three decades, following passage of environmental legislation in the 1970s, biodiversity appeared to show a partial recovery. An inventory of species, how it has changed over time, and understanding what caused those changes are important for assessing whether remediation programs are achieving improved water quality and ecosystem health.

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