Marine Biology

, 165:166 | Cite as

How do food sources drive meiofauna community structure in soft-bottom coastal food webs?

  • L. H. van der HeijdenEmail author
  • J. Rzeznik-Orignac
  • R. M. Asmus
  • D. Fichet
  • M. Bréret
  • P. Kadel
  • L. Beaugeard
  • H. Asmus
  • B. Lebreton
Original paper


Meiofauna have a strong role in the functioning of coastal ecosystems but how their food sources affect their community structure remains unclear, likely due to the influence of abiotic parameters and the small size of these organisms. The meiofauna and their potential food sources were sampled in several intertidal habitats (i.e., mudflat, seagrass bed, sandflat) of the Marennes-Oléron Bay, France, and the Sylt-Rømø Bight, Germany, to assess the relationships between habitat characteristics and meiofauna community structure. Biomass and quality (carbon/chlorophyll a ratios) of food sources were estimated. Meiofauna community structure based on density and biomass was determined, as well as nematode diversity and feeding types. Meiofauna density and biomass varied highly within habitats and within ecosystems, ranging from 1.7 × 105 to 3.4 × 106 ind. m−2 and from 0.057 to 1.541 gC m−2, respectively. Benthic microalgae and sediment organic matter are important drivers in these food webs as the density of two important trophic groups of nematodes, non-selective deposit feeders and epigrowth feeders, varied in accordance with these food sources. No clear relationship was observed between bacterial biomass and selective deposit feeders (i.e., bacterivores) probably due to the high production rate of bacteria. Complementary information about production rates of food source as well as data from trophic markers would provide complimentary information to better understand flows of organic matter in intertidal habitats, particularly for opportunistic species such as non-selective deposit feeders.



This study forms part of the Ph.D. thesis of L. van der Heijden. This work was financially supported by the University of La Rochelle through a grant provided by the ‘Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche’. This work was supported by the CNRS through the CNRS research chair provided to B. Lebreton. Financial support was provided by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, as well as the University of La Rochelle (Mobility for doctoral students) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD: short-term research grant, 2017, no. 57314023). We acknowledge P. Pineau, B. Hussel, S. Horn, M. Burgdorf, M. Paar and N. Lachaussée for their support during fieldwork, and G. Guillou and C. Labrune for their support in the analyses. We thank Q. Bernier for his help in sample processing and analysis. Finally, L. van der Heijden thanks the members of his Ph.D. committee, M. Graeve, N. Niquil and G. Blanchard, for their guidance, as well as two anonymous reviewers whose comments greatly improved the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical statement

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the sampling, care and use of organisms were followed.

Supplementary material

227_2018_3419_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (645 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 646 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UMR 7266 Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés (CNRS-University of La Rochelle), Institut du littoral et de l’environnementLa RochelleFrance
  2. 2.Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, Wattenmeerstation SyltList/SyltGermany
  3. 3.Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, Laboratoire d’Ecogéochimie des Environnements Benthiques (LECOB UMR 8222), Observatoire OcéanologiqueBanyuls/MerFrance

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