, Volume 495, Issue 1–3, pp 143–158 | Cite as

Community structure and spatial variability of marine nematodes in tropical Australian pioneer seagrass meadows

  • R. Fisher
  • M.J. Sheaves


The spatial variability in the community structure of infaunal free-living marine nematodes of pioneer seagrass (Halophilaand Halodule) meadows within a deltaic mangrove estuarine system and a bay mangrove system in tropical north-eastern Australia were examined. Nematode mean densities were intermediate ranging from 609 to 2744 inds./10 cm2. A total of 152 putative species from 94 genera and 22 families were found across the four sites. The communities exhibited a high degree of dominance by Terschellingia longicaudata, Catanema sp 1, Terschellingia sp 2 and Metalinhomoeus insularis.Non-metric multi-dimensional scaling (nMDS) revealed that intra-site variability was low. This was reinforced by 1-way MANOVA, showing no significant inter-station differences between the six most dominant species at each site. The main system difference was reflected by a greater percentage of the Desmodoridae combined with a reduction of the Linhomoeidae in the bay system. At a species level system differences were manifested by a stenohaline, brackish water nematode assemblage in the deltaic system (M. insularis, Terschellingoidessp 1, Pseudolellasp 1) and, by a stenohaline, marine nematode assemblage in the bay system (Catanema sp 1, Spirinia parasitifera, Actinonemasp 1). These communities represent `hotspots' of diversity within a wider, mangrove-influenced depauperate fauna. The high degree of dominance found in each community was countered by moderate diversity and this, combined with the high number and speciation of deposit-feeding species, suggests that nematodes were more abundant in the meadows due to the abundance of microbial food. Notwithstanding the different salinity/CaCO3 regimes, these communities exhibit both intra- and inter-site homogeneity with dominance by a conservative, deep-dwelling guild. The fact that this homogeneity exists suggests that these small-bladed seagrass species may play a greater role (sediment stability, fine particle settlement, organic detritus) in influencing the infaunal nematode community than was previously thought.

meiofauna nematodes tropical seagrass Terschellingia 


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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Estuarine Biology and Ecology Group, School of Marine Biology and AquacultureJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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