Relationships between benthic macrofauna and biogeochemical properties of sediments at different spatial scales and among different habitats in mangrove forests

M. G. Chapman, T. J. Tolhurst

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48 Citations (Scopus)


In muddy intertidal sediments, there are reported complex interactions between the biological, physical and chemical properties of the sediment and the benthos that live in and on it. These are expected to be reflected in strong relationships between benthic animals and particular properties of the sediment, although some research has shown these relationships to be relatively weak. This study investigates the relationships between benthic macrofauna and biogeochemical properties of sediments within and among different habitats in multiple mangrove forests in a temperate estuary, in order to address the generality of any such relationships. Matched samples of benthos and sediment were collected from three habitats, which differed with respect to shading, the amounts of algae and leaf litter and the presence of pneumatophores. The sediment was sampled for water content, grain size, organic matter, chlorophylls a and b and colloidal and total carbohydrate.

Spatial variation in sediment and benthos were significantly correlated across habitats in two of the three bays, but the sediment properties that contributed to differences between habitats and those that best correlated with the benthos varied among bays. In all bays, the single taxon that best correlated with the sediment was spionid polychaetes, but correlations were generally weak. There was no generality in the patterns of variation among the benthos or sedimentary properties among habitats. The benthos differed significantly among bays in all habitats, with large variation within and among sites. The sediment varied significantly at small scales in all habitats, but significant differences among bays were only found in two habitats. All spatial scales contributed to the total amount of variability in the sediment and there was little predictability from the patterns shown in one habitat to those in other habitats, or from one component of sediment to other components. Such variability suggests that there may be structural redundancy in this fauna, with different components of the benthos contributing to similar functions in different places. Such variability must be considered in experiments designed to understand relationships between ecological structure and function in these complex habitats and in any sampling studies to identify environmental impacts in these habitats.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)96-109
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
Early online date6 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2007

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