Ecological monitoring of intertidal phytobenthic communities of the Basque Coast (N. Spain) following the Prestige oil spill
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Following the Prestige oil spill, six-monthly samplings (spring and autumn) of intertidal macroalgal assemblages were carried out from 2004 to 2006 in twelve locations along the Basque coast. Macroalgal species appeared to be little modified, but species richness, diversity, and algal cover were significantly lower in the first year of the study, so it cannot be ruled out that the arrival of oil on the Basque coast might have had a damaging effect on intertidal communities. On the other hand, no significant differences were detected between locations slightly and moderately affected by oil in any of the structural parameters considered. By contrast, significant differences were detected between locations within each oiling level that indicate that other natural environmental factors play a greater role in the differences between locations than the oiling level. Likewise, significant differences were detected between areas within each location which were not consistent with time, indicating that communities are highly heterogeneous in species richness, diversity and algal cover at the scale of tens of meters. The dominant Corallina elongata and most of the accompanying species did not show significant year-on-year differences in terms of cover. Also, there were no differences between the two oiling levels. Analyses revealed a high spatial variability at the scale of kilometers (locations) and tens of meters (areas) for most of the taxa. The results obtained provide detailed quantitative data on intertidal phytobenthic assemblages of the Basque coast at different spatial and temporal scales that were hitherto unavailable for the region.