The use of fine-grained maintenance dredged material for habitat enhancement has increased in recent years, particularly recharge schemes which provide a means of combating the erosion of intertidal flats and saltmarsh. This article investigates the development of meiofaunal nematode communities following a natural experiment in 2003, when fine-grained dredged material was deposited concurrently at four adjacent intertidal recharge sites on the southeast coast of the United Kingdom. A 12-month survey of nematode assemblages was carried out to compare univariate, multivariate, allometric and functional attributes of colonist communities in relation to the different environmental conditions prevailing at the four sites. Developing assemblages were increasingly affected by the spatial differences in the elevation, consolidation and exposure of bed material. The results indicated that the colonisation sequence was the result of random settling of suspended nematodes, sequential reproduction and differential survival and reproductive success of colonising species. For the first time, this experiment provided insights into the development of adaptive and functional types of meiofaunal nematodes following the intertidal deposition of uncontaminated fine-grained dredged material. This, in turn, will contribute considerably to the development of ecological models of the evolution of the large-scale placement of muddy dredged material in the intertidal environment.
|Number of pages
|Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
|Published - 11 Jul 2006