Impact of plant cover removal on macrobenthic community structure of a subtropical salt marsh
A short-term field experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of plant cover removal on temporal trends of species richness and abundance of the macrobenthic community in a subtropical salt marsh in Paranaguá Bay (southeastern Brazil). Plant cover was removed to test the hypothesis that habitat complexity plays an important role in structuring infaunal and epifaunal assemblages. Habitat complexity for the macrofauna assemblages, above and below the sediment surface, was greatly influenced by Spartina alterniflora Loisel, 1807 leaves, culms, roots, and rhizomes. The response of infaunal or epifaunal species depended on their ability to discriminate between vegetated or unvegetated habitats. Habitat specialists from the epifauna —forms closely associated with plant structures, such as the gastropod Neritina virginea (Linnaeus, 1758), the isopod Sphaeromopsis mourei (Loyola and Silva, 1960), and an unidentified gammarid species— were clearly affected by plant removal, whereas the habitat generalist epifaunal Kalliapseudes schubarti MañéGarzon, 1969 (Tanaidacea) did not respond to it. Relative abundances of habitat specialist infauna, such as the polychaetes Isolda pulchella Müller, 1858 and Nereis oligohalina Rioja, 1946, and habitat generalist infauna, such as the polychaetes Laeonereis acuta Treadwell, 1923 and Capitella sp., did not change significantly after plant removal. Abundance of local macrobenthic species was significantly correlated to rainfall and tended to be reduced after intense freshwater inputs in the summer. Changes in local macrobenthic associations were the result of interactive effects of plant biomass and sediment changes on small spatial scales, and physical impacts of summer freshwater runoff on large spatial scales.
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Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2005-07-01
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