Ecological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 959–970 | Cite as

Changes in the functional feeding groups of macrobenthic fauna during mangrove forest succession in Zhanjiang, China

  • Quan Chen
  • Qiao Zhao
  • Shuguang Jian
  • Pimao Chen
Original Article


Understanding the relationships between mangrove forest succession and the functional diversity of mangrove fauna could facilitate the restoration of mangrove ecosystems, which have been severely damaged in recent decades. The current report describes changes in macrobenthic functional diversity in a mangrove chronosequence that included a primary community (unvegetated shoal), an early community (Avicennia marina), a middle community (Aegiceras corniculatum), and a late community (Bruguiera gymnorrhiza + Rhizophora stylosa) in Zhanjiang, China. Phytophages were the dominant macrobenthic functional feeding group regardless of mangrove succession stage, sampling season, or macrobenthic faunal parameter (species richness, abundance, and biomass). As mangrove succession progressed, the proportions of macrobenthic species richness, abundance, or biomass represented by omnivores significantly increased (except for biomass and in the late stage; ranged from 0.065 to 0.230 and 0.033 to 0.368, respectively in wet season, and 0.000 to 0.192 and 0.000 to 0.396, respectively in dry season), while the proportions significantly decreased for detritivores during the dry season (ranged from 0.156 to 0.056, 0.107 to 0.019, and 0.066 to 0.005, respectively). Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling and PERMANOVA also indicated that the structure of macrobenthic faunal functional feeding groups was significantly affected by mangrove succession. Further analyses indicated that the changes in the relative dominance among macrobenthic faunal functional feeding groups during mangrove succession were mainly associated with changes in plant density, coverage/canopy density, and total nitrogen content of sediment, i.e., they were mostly associated with changes in food sources. The results increase our understanding of the relationship between benthic functional diversity and mangrove succession and could help guide mangrove restoration in China and around the world.


Chronosequence Macrobenthic faunal parameter Phytophage Vegetation characteristics Sediment physicochemical properties 



We sincerely thank Mr. Guangxuan Lin at Zhanjiang Mangrove National Nature Reserve, and Dr. Hongfang Lu and Dr. Jing Li at the South China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who offered substantial assistances in the field sampling. We also thank Professor Bruce Jaffee for improving the English grammar. This work was supported by the Central Public-interest Scientific Institution Basal Research Fund, South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, CAFS (2017YB25); the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC1403002); the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XDA13020500); the National Science & Technology Infrastructure Program of China (2013FY111200); Special Scientific Research Funds for Central Non-profit Institutes, CAFS (2016HY-ZD0101).

Author contributions

QC and SJ conceived the study. QC, QZ and SJ carried out the field measurements, laboratory analyses and statistical analyses. QC, QZ, SJ and PC contributed to manuscript writing and revision.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary material

11284_2018_1603_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (473 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 473 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Marine Ranch TechnologyChinese Academy of Fishery SciencesGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Scientific Observing and Experimental Station of South China Sea Fishery Resources and Environment, Ministry of AgricultureGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Fishery Ecology and EnvironmentGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.South China Sea Fisheries Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Fishery SciencesGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.College of Forestry and Landscape ArchitectureSouth China Agricultural UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  6. 6.Key Laboratory of Vegetation Restoration and Management of Degraded EcosystemsSouth China Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of SciencesGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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