, Volume 111, Issue 2, pp 293-301

Changes in composition of bottom fauna of a tidal-flat area during a period of eutrophication

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Abstract

During the last 20 yr the western half of the Dutch Wadden Sea has undergone significant eutrophication: concentrations of P and N compounds and planktonic algae have roughly doubled, as has primary production. Though oxygen levels are often low in summer, anoxic areas are small and rare due to strong tidal mixing. During the 1970 to 1990 period, macrozoobenthos was sampled annually at 15 stations at Balgzand, a 50-km2 tidal-flat area in the westernmost part of the Wadden Sea. Not only did the estimates of total numbers, biomass, and production double during these two decades, but significant changes in the composition of the benthic community were observed, too: (1) the numerical proportion of polychaetes increased at the expense of molluscs and crustaceans, (2) the overall mean weight per individual of the macrozoobenthos decreased (numbers of individuals of small-sized species increased more rapidly than those of large-sized species), and (3) though absolute numbers and biomass of all feeding types increased, the share of carnivores declined and that of deposit feeders increased; the proportion of suspension feeders showed little change. This study refers to true macrobenthos only (1-mm sieve) and further excludes two taxa (Corophium spp. andHydrobia ulvae) which occasionally exercised an undue influence on numbers. Mass mortalities caused by low oxygen concentrations were of a small-scale nature only. Total number of species fluctuated without a clear trend. As a consequence of the increasing numerical densities, trends in species numbers were slightly increasing when expressed per unit of area and slightly decreasing when estimated per 100 individuals (by rarefaction).

Communicated by O. Kinne, Oldendorf/Luhe