Habitat structure shaping megabenthic communities inhabiting subtidal soft bottoms along the Algarve coast (Portugal)
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The present study analysed the megabenthic diversity in subtidal soft bottoms and assessed the main environmental drivers of megabenthic community organisation along the Algarve coast (southern Portugal). We tested the hypothesis that megabenthic communities respond to the same environmental drivers than macrofauna. We found that similar to macrofauna, megafaunal communities were organised in relation to the depth of closure, light reaching the bottom, and the hydrodynamic conditions related with exposure within the shallower areas. The influence of the main river outflow prevailed over other drivers, but only up to 9 m depth. We found that seven different spatial units should be considered, each characterised by different indicator species. Additionally, among a total of 412 taxa collected between 4 and 50 m depth, we provide the characteristics of the 64 commonest species in terms of occurrence, frequency, distribution, abundance, bathymetric and sedimentary preferences, which constitutes most valuable information for ecosystem modelling. Megabenthic alpha diversity decreased with depth, contrary to evenness and was higher in the proximity of the river Guadiana and in highly exposed shores. We conclude that the megafauna, which is significantly quicker to collect and analyse, can provide an accurate alternative to macrofauna sampling, as their communities are shaped by the same drivers.
KeywordsSubtidal megabenthic communities Spatial scale Alpha diversity Community composition Coastal zone
The authors would like to acknowledge the crew of the RV “Diplodus” for their professionalism in conducting the sampling surveys and the IPMA technical staff for their helpful assistance in collecting and sampling the biological material. Marta M. Rufino is funded by a post-doctoral grant of IPMA, within the EU project SAFI (FP7-SPACE-2013-1, grant agreement nº 607155). Paulo Vasconcelos is funded by a post-doctoral grant (SFRH/BPD/26348/2006) awarded by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT - Portugal). Species identified in this study, with the respective abundance and biomass are archived in the PANGAEA database at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (https://doi.pangaea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.859802). The authors also thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and suggestions that improved the revised version of the manuscript.
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