Ectoproct Diversity of the Indian River Coastal Lagoon
Thirty-six species of ectoprocts are known so far from the Indian River Lagoon. The highest diversity occurs where salinities are above 30‰. Only 12 species have been found in the less saline portions of the lagoon. Ectoproct habitats include seagrass meadows, drift algal communities, oyster “rock,” docks, pilings, breakwaters, and man-made debris. Ectoproct diversity within the IRL is about one third that of area coastal and offshore habitats, but is probably fairly diverse relative to the available species pool. No ectoprocts are endemic to the IRL. About a third of the species recorded have western Atlantic or western Atlantic/Caribbean distributions. The rest are cosmopolitan fouling or eurytopic species. Species composition of the fauna has remained stable over the last 20 years, but large population fluctuations occur for some species on both a seasonal and year-to-year basis. IRL ectoprocts are somewhat protected from natural disturbance by their physiological tolerance and/or the presence of spatial refuges, but the fact that over a 20-year period many species were observed only at one site indicates that degradation of critical habitats would quickly reduce ectoproct diversity. Most important from a management point of view is the role of these animals in maintaining water quality. Like other suspension feeders, ectoproct colonies act as seawater purifiers—living water treatment plants. For example, colonies of Zoobotryon verticillatum found in 1 m2 of a seagrass bed could clear and recirculate about 48,000 gallons of water per day. Priorities for future work include evaluation and quantification of the role of bryozoans and other suspension feeders in maintaining lagoon water quality, as well a more through taxonomic survey, particularly of the much less well-known northern- and southern-most portions of the lagoon.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1995-07-01
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