, Volume 134, Issue 1-3, pp 397-410
Date: 17 Mar 2007

Intertidal macrofaunal communities in an intensely polluted estuary

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The Bilbao estuary (northern Spain) has suffered a serious environmental deterioration due to industrial and domestic discharges during decades. A total of 21 sampling stations were selected in order to: (1) study the intertidal fauna distribution on both hard and soft bottoms; (2) link this information with the prevalence of certain environmental variables at the sampling sites; and (3) define distinct biological zones with all the information gathered. Up to 50 taxa were identified mainly in the outer estuary with an abrupt decrease upstream. In general, fauna on hard substrates was more diverse, while soft bottom communities exhibited a more consistent structure. Sporadic hypoxic events were recorded in the water column of all the sites studied, which affects the distribution of species. Three major biotic zones are proposed in the estuary. This provides a reliable biomonitoring tool for assessing the effectiveness of a sewerage and remediation scheme ongoing on the river and evaluating the future use of each area in the urban development of the city of Bilbao and conurbation.