Meiofauna response to a dynamic river plume front
- Cite this article as:
- Danovaro, R., Gambi, C., Manini, E. et al. Marine Biology (2000) 137: 359. doi:10.1007/s002270000353
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The benthic response to a plume front was studied in two areas of the northern Adriatic (Mediterranean Sea) differently influenced by the Po River freshwater input. Sediment samples were collected in June 1996 and February 1997 from 12 stations. The adopted sampling strategy was able to identify the front line in real time by satellite images and to locate sampling stations along an inner–outer plume gradient in order to cover the benthic area beneath the river plume, where enhanced biological production was expected, and open-sea sediments not directly influenced by freshwater inputs. Meiofaunal parameters were compared to the physical conditions and to phytodetritus inputs, organic matter accumulation and bacterial secondary production. The sediments of the Adriatic Sea were characterised by high concentrations of phytopigments (0.6 to 13.9 μg g−1 for chlorophyll a and 1.2 to 17.7 μg g−1 for phaeopigments) and biopolymeric organic carbon (0.15 to 3.02 mg g−1). The plume system extended for a large sector of the northern Adriatic. In the northern area, a large and highly dynamic plume area was coupled with a sediment organic matter concentration significantly higher than in open-sea sediments. In the southern sector, where the plume area and the front line did not change markedly during the year, plume–benthic coupling was evident only in the sediments beneath the front, and corresponded to phaeopigment accumulation. Bacterial parameters and secondary production were high and significantly higher in the frontal area than at open-sea stations. Meiofauna density (1342 to 8541 ind. 10 cm−2) did not change either by season or between areas and was significantly correlated with phaeopigments and bacterial secondary production. Meiofauna displayed different responses to plume inputs in the two sampling areas. In the northern sector, meiofauna density was coupled with organic matter distribution and displayed highest values beneath the plume. In the southern sector, the densities of copepods, turbellarians and kinorhynchs displayed highest values under the front in summer, and the same applied to total meiofauna density in winter. Juvenile decapods and copepod nauplii significantly increased their densities in sediments beneath the front. Data presented in the present study suggest that plume inputs and frontal systems, enhancing phytodetritus accumulation and benthic bacterial response, might influence density, composition and distribution of meiofaunal assemblages. As river plumes are highly variable systems affecting the trophic characteristics of the sediments underneath, their dynamics should be considered when analysing mesoscale spatial changes of meiofaunal assemblages.