Contrasting macrobenthic activities differentially affect nematode density and diversity in a shallow subtidal marine sediment
Braeckman, U.; Van Colen, C.; Soetaert, K.; Vincx, M.; Vanaverbeke, J. (2011). Contrasting macrobenthic activities differentially affect nematode density and diversity in a shallow subtidal marine sediment, in: Braeckman, U. Macrobenthos structuring the sea floor: importance of its functional biodiversity for the benthic ecosystem = De structurerende rol van macrobenthos in de zeebodem: belang van de functionele biodiversiteit voor het benthische ecosysteem. pp. 53-75
In: Braeckman, U. (2011). Macrobenthos structuring the sea floor: importance of its functional biodiversity for the benthic ecosystem = De structurerende rol van macrobenthos in de zeebodem: belang van de functionele biodiversiteit voor het benthische ecosysteem. PhD Thesis. Marine Biology Research Group: Gent. ISBN 9789490695590. 239 pp.
By bioturbating and bio-irrigating the sea floor, macrobenthic organisms transport organic matter and oxygen from the surface to deeper layers, hereby extending the suitable habitat of smaller infauna. Next to these engineering activities, competition, disturbance and predation may also affect the spatial distribution of these smaller organisms. In a controlled lab experiment, we studied the effect of 3 functionally different macrobenthic species on the vertical distribution of nematodes. Abra alba, a suspension–deposit feeding bivalve reworking the sediment randomly, Lanice conchilega, a suspension-deposit feeding, tube-irrigating polychaete and Nephtys hombergii, a burrowing predatory polychaete were added in single–species treatments to sediment from a coastal subtidal station in the Belgian part of the North Sea, sieved (1 mm) to remove macrofauna. After 14 days, the control treatment without macrobenthos had been detrimental for nematode density and diversity, which points at the importance of macrobenthic engineering to sustain the smaller components of the food web. Nematode densities were highest at the sediment surface in all treatments, but subsurface density peaks were observed in A. alba (until 3 cm depth) and L. conchilega (until 7 cm depth) microcosms. In the A. alba treatment, the dominant non-selective deposit feeders and the epistrate feeders shifted downwards probably to avoid disturbance and exploitative competition by the bivalve siphons at the surface, while they might have benefited from the faecal pellets deposited in the subsurface. In the L. conchilega treatment, the several dominant species were redistributed over depth layers, indicating polychaete-mediated habitat extension from surface into depth. Nematode communities seemed hardly affected by the presence of N. hombergii. These results reveal that functionally contrasting macrobenthic engineering effects shape nematode communities in different ways which may maintain the role of nematodes in ecosystem functioning. This study therefore highlights the need for conservation of macrobenthic functional diversity.