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Marine Biology

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 339–350 | Cite as

Trophic importance of subtidal metazoan meiofauna: evidence from in situ exclusion experiments on soft and rocky substrates

  • Roberto Danovaro
  • Mariaspina Scopa
  • Cristina Gambi
  • Simonetta Fraschetti
Research Article

Abstract

In coastal marine ecosystems, predation might affect spatial distribution and population dynamics of benthic assemblages. Here, by means of experimental exclusion of potential predators, we compared the effects of epibenthic predation on metazoan meiofaunal assemblages on soft and rocky substrates. Different patterns of abundance were observed in uncaged versus caged plots, across habitats. In caged soft substrates, the abundance of Nematodes, Copepods and Polychaetes increased by 56, 45, 57%, respectively, in the first 3 months. An increase in the number of meiofaunal taxa was also observed. The exclusion of predators from rocky substrates showed less clear patterns. It did not affect the number of taxa while a decrease in meiofaunal abundance was observed. Our results suggest that the exclusion of epibenthic predators had clear effect on total metazoan meiofaunal abundance and on the number of taxa, only in soft bottoms. The different impact of predation across habitats can be potentially explained by differences in terms of spatial variability and substrate complexity. We estimated that, coarsely, more than 75% of total metazoan meiofaunal production can be channeled to higher trophic levels through predation on soft-bottoms. Among meiofaunal taxa, Polychaetes and Nematodes provided the major contribution to benthic energy transfers. These results suggest the trophic relevance of metazoan meiofauna in coastal food webs and claim for the refinement of further experiments for the quantification of its role in different ecological systems.

Keywords

Polychaete High Trophic Level Meiofauna Soft Sediment Soft Substrate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This work has been carried out within the frame of the Network of Excellence MARBEF (Marine Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning) and has been financially supported by the MIUR, project FIRB 2001 (n. RBAU 012 KXA_009).

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roberto Danovaro
    • 1
  • Mariaspina Scopa
    • 1
  • Cristina Gambi
    • 1
  • Simonetta Fraschetti
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Marine SciencePolytechnic University of MarcheAnconaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental Science and TechnologyUniversity of LecceLecceItaly

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