Effects of restoration management on the estuarine isopod Cyathura carinata: mediation by trematodes and habitat change
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- Ferreira, S.M., Brandão, A., Baeta, A. et al. Mar Biol (2007) 151: 109. doi:10.1007/s00227-006-0455-5
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A restoration programme was introduced in the Mondego Estuary (Portugal) to recover seagrass beds of Zostera noltii endangered by eutrophication. A long-term survey of 10 years was used to assess the development of the processes involved, focusing one of the key species (Cyathura carinata, Isopoda). The mitigation measures implemented since 1998 (nutrient loading reduction, freshwater circulation improvement and seagrass bed protection) enhanced water quality and seagrass recovery, thus preventing the development of macroalgal blooms. C. carinata was resilient to the occurrence of floods and macroalgal blooms, although both events caused dispersion of individuals. This isopod was not much influenced by the changes occurring in the estuary, showing an unalterable population structure during the entire study period. After 1998, its density and biomass became more stable at an inner unvegetated sand flat area, where this isopod was most abundant; its population slightly increased in a bare mud flat at the middle section of the estuary; but it could not establish successfully in a downstream Z. noltii bed, contrarily to other common estuarine species. Apart from other unknown reasons, the disrupted balanced between trematodes and their hosts, caused by the eutrophication processes, may have an important role in the discontinuity of C. carinata at the Z. noltii bed. If the intertidal areas become fully restored to the original seagrass coverage, high prevalence and intensity trematodes may prevent this isopod and other crustaceans from recovering within the intervened areas, by enhancing host mortality and recruitment failure. In order to avoid this kind of situation, it may be necessary to survey the levels of parasite infestation within the target hosts and safeguard areas where crustaceans present healthy populations.