Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 7, Issue 9, pp 1133–1145 | Cite as

Biodiversity and functioning of polychaetes in benthic sediments

  • Pat Hutchings


Polychaetes are well represented in most marine and estuarine environments, both in terms of number of individuals and species, and they typically contribute a significant percentage of the total macrofaunal diversity. They exhibit considerable variations in recruitment in both time and space, which is then often reflected in adult distributions. Whilst families and genera of polychaetes have wide distributions, normally species have discrete distributions. Polychaetes are often classified according to their diverse feeding guilds. They play a major role in the functioning of benthic communities, in terms of recycling and reworking of benthic sediments, bioturbating sediments and in the burial of organic matter. Some species form dense tubiculous colonies which can radically change recruitment patterns of other infaunal organisms. Polychaetes, by their burrowing and feeding activity, may considerably enhance various sedimentary processes. However, much remains to be learnt as to how benthic communities function, and how they may change in function as they are increasingly being impacted especially in coastal waters adjacent to centres of population.

polychaetes biodiversity marine sediments role of polychaetes recruitment 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pat Hutchings
    • 1
  1. 1.The Australian MuseumSydneyAustralia

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