Marine Biodiversity

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 95–106 | Cite as

Regional and latitudinal variation in the diversity, dominance and abundance of microphagous microgastropods and other benthos in intertidal beds of dwarf eelgrass, Nanozostera spp.

Original paper


The smaller macroscopic members of the epifauna and shallowly-burrowing infauna of comparable intertidal beds of dwarf eelgrass and associated areas of non-vegetated sediment were investigated with uniform methodology in the cool-temperate English southern North Sea (Nanozostera noltii), warm-temperate southern coast of the Western Cape, South Africa (N. capensis) and in subtropical southern Queensland, Australia (N. muelleri capricorni), together with equivalent seagrass sites in tropical Sulawesi, Indonesia, and Seychelles, Western Indian Ocean. Epifaunal microphagous microgastropods dominated both the eelgrass and non-vegetated cool- and warm-temperate sites with >80% of macrofaunal individuals, but decreased markedly in density and dominance with decreasing latitude, down to near zero in the tropics; microgastropod species diversity in the Nanozostera increased with decreasing latitude, whilst their species richness per core sample was highest in the warm temperate zone. Other co-existing—largely infaunal—taxa (mainly annelid worms, bivalve molluscs and crabs), however, showed less marked latitudinal variation in density and no relationship of taxon diversity with latitude. With few exceptional cases, microgastropod density, dominance, species richness and diversity were greater in the eelgrass beds than in adjacent non-vegetated sediments, as were the densities and taxon diversities of the associated faunal groups, although within the beds themselves there were no significant correlations between seagrass density and the density or diversity of either the microgastropods or their associated fauna. The extent to which the presence or absence of seagrass influenced the underlying community composition of the benthic fauna varied between localities. These results are consonant with an increasing effect of predation in low latitudes on small epifauna.


Gastropoda Latitudinal gradients Littoral ecology Seagrass Zoobenthos 



I am most grateful to: (1) the Foreign Travel Fund of the University of Cambridge, Research Fund of St Catharine’s College Cambridge, Charles Slater Fund of Cambridge University Faculty of Biology, Charlie Boyden Memorial Fund of the Estuarine and Coastal Sciences Association, Operation Wallacea, and Mitsubishi Corporation’s Global Coral Reef Conservation Project (through Earthwatch Institute, Europe) for financial assistance; (2) South African National Parks Board, Seychelles Bureau of Standards and (through David Smith, University of Essex) Kelementerian Negara Riset dan Teknologi for permission to work in the Knysna National Lakes Area, the Curieuse Marine National Park and the Wakatobi Marine National Park, respectively, and Michael Rooney, Jon Brown and Natural England for access to the Scolt Head and Holkham National Nature Reserves; (3) Brian Allanson and the Knysna Basin Project (Western Cape, RSA), Moreton Bay Research Station staff (University of Queensland), Seychelles National Parks Authority and the staff of its base on Curieuse, and Lembaga Alam Mitra Wakatobi and the Hoga Marine Research Station (Sulawesi Tenggara) for hospitality and use of their facilities; (4) Morvan Barnes (Plymouth Marine Laboratory) for carrying out the multivariate statistical analyses, for producing Fig. 1, and for commenting on the paper, Dick Kilburn and Dai Herbert (Natal Museum, Pietermaritzburg) for identifying Rissoa capensis, Annaëlle Barnes for assistance in the Indonesian field, David and Finn Barnes for field assistance at Wells, the January 2009 party of Earthwatch Institute volunteers for field assistance on Curieuse, and Carol Barnes for managing the South African and Australian field accommodation.


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© Senckenberg, Gesellschaft für Naturforschung and Springer 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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