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A field colonization experiment with meiofauna and seagrass mimics: effect of time, distance and leaf surface area
De Troch, M.; Vandepitte, L.; Raes, M.; Suàrez-Morales, E.; Vincx, M. (2005). A field colonization experiment with meiofauna and seagrass mimics: effect of time, distance and leaf surface area. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 148(1): 73-86. dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00227-005-0062-x
In: Marine Biology. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 
    VLIZ: Open Repository 72199 [ OMA ]

Keywords
    Colonization; Meiobenthos; Sea grass; Temporal variations; Thalassia testudinum K.D.Koenig, 1805 [WoRMS]; ASW, Mexico, Yucatan, Punta Allen [Marine Regions]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Suàrez-Morales, E.
  • Vincx, M., more

Abstract
    From a conservation point of view, it is essential to know how fast an ecosystem can recover after physical disturbance. Meiofauna and especially harpacticoid copepods are abundant in seagrass beds and are therefore useful to study ecosystem recovery after disturbance. In the western Caribbean coast, a fragmented Thalassia testudinum seagrass bed was selected to conduct a colonization field experiment by means of plastic seagrass mimics. Meiofauna colonization, with special emphasis on harpacticoid copepods, was followed in relation to: (1) colonization time (2, 4, 6, 10, 14 and 21 days); (2) distance to source of colonizers (close and far series) and (3) leaf surface area to colonize (small, medium, large). Colonization was recorded after 2 days with average meiofauna densities of 480 ind/100 cm2 (close) and 1350 ind/100 cm2 (far) of leaf surface area, while on average 400 ind/100 cm2 were collected from the natural seagrass plants. In this early phase, the meiofauna diversity was high, with on average 8 taxa. A longer period of colonization (21 days) showed an increased meiofaunal density and diversity (average density: 3220 ind/100 cm2, 13 taxa). Increasing meiofauna colonization with time is probably related to the development of a biofilm making the leaf more attractive for meiofauna. The effect of distance was not so pronounced as that of time. Total absolute densities were highest in the far series (5 m away from natural seagrass patch), mainly because of nematode densities. Meiofauna diversity was lower in the far series than in the close series (at the border of the natural seagrass patch). A larger individual leaf surface area did not affect the overall meiofauna densities but had a significant positive effect on copepod densities. Larger surface areas promoted the presence of epiphytic copepod families such as Tegastidae and Dactylopusiidae. Overall, we found a rapid recovery of meiofauna in fragmented seagrass beds with primary colonizers (both nematodes and benthic opportunistic copepods) originating from the sediment and later colonizers as epiphytic copepods and their nauplii from the local seagrass regeneration pool.

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