Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 117–126 | Cite as

An approach based on nematode descriptors for the classification of ecological quality (EcoQ) of the Malaysian coasts

  • Cheng-Ann ChenEmail author
  • Chen-Lin Soo
  • Maria Balsamo
  • Federica Semprucci
Meio Extreme


Free-living marine nematodes were employed in ecological studies and were proven to be suitable bioindicators of pollution-induced effects on the benthic domain. This study represents the first attempt to use nematode descriptors in order to assign ecological quality (EcoQ) status to areas along the Sarawak coasts, thus integrating the methods actually applied by the Department of Environment (DOE). Three nematode parameters, i.e. colonizer–persister percentage, maturity index (MI), and Shannon diversity index (Hˈ), were used, as they are recognized as the best descriptors of EcoQ status in coastal habitats. The thresholds applied to the nematode parameters for the Sarawak study sites showed predominantly moderate and bad EcoQ status, with the exception of the Similajau site, which being close to a national park was found to have good EcoQ. The sites with the worst EcoQ were characterized by low salinity values, suggesting riverine inflows as a primary source of pollution, likely from the discharge of untreated wastes. This was confirmed by both the Hˈ and MI indices, which showed a close positive relation with salinity. Results obtained for the Niah site may suggest that “traces” of pollution were left in the nematode assemblages that could not be detected from other parameters of the water column. This investigation shows that analysis of nematode descriptors could be effectively applied to ecological assessment criteria within environmental policies of rapid growth countries such as Malaysia. Furthermore, it certainly suggests the need for management and conservation actions in the Sarawak coasts aimed at more sustainable use of the marine resources to prevent the loss of biodiversity.


Zoobenthos Meiofauna Ecological quality assessment Anthropogenic impact Malaysia 



We would like to thank Professor Dr. Shabdin Mohd Long for his guidance. In addition, we would like to thank Universiti Malaysia Sabah for financial support through research grants (SLB0123-STWN-2016 and GKP0015-STWN-2016). The authors would also like to thank Universiti Malaysia Sarawak for providing the facilities and for administrative and logistic support during fieldwork. Finally, we would like to thank all the reviewers and the editor for their critical and constructive comments, which helped to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Borneo Marine Research InstituteUniversiti Malaysia Sabah, Jalan UMSKota KinabaluMalaysia
  2. 2.Faculty of Resource Science and TechnologyUniversiti Malaysia SarawakKota SamarahanMalaysia
  3. 3.Department of Biomolecular Sciences (DISB)University of UrbinoUrbinoItaly

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