Influence of Storm Disturbance on an Offshore Benthic Community
Abstract:Seasonal variation in physical disturbance is an important selective agent for benthos in temperate intertidal and shallow-water habitats. However, severe storms provide an unpredictable source of mortality for benthic organisms and may strongly influence community composition. Although the importance of storm events is well demonstrated in intertidal and shallow subtidal areas, the effects on offshore, deeper-water communities is still poorly understood. We examined changes in infaunal communities associated with artificial reef systems located 20 miles off the Gulf of Mexico coast of Florida (13 m depth) after a severe storm event. Approximately one third of common fauna exhibited a significant decline in abundance after the storm. Most effects were restricted to surface-dwelling fauna (tube builders, juvenile bivalves, epifauna) with no significant changes in the abundance of the deep-burrowing guild. There was no detectable interaction of reef presence with storm effects and no consistent pattern of change in sediment grain size after the storm. Despite the influence of the storm on abundances, the infaunal community before the storm was more similar to that after the storm than to samples taken from the same sites during the same time period of the previous year. These results indicate that severe, episodic storms can affect the composition of offshore benthic communities, but this effect may be less than background annual variability.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 1996-11-01
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