Spatial distribution of microphytobenthos, meiofauna and macrofauna in the north-western Adriatic Sea: a synoptic study
In view of the general paucity of integrated information on offshore benthic communities in the Adriatic Sea and given the vulnerability of this particular coastal system, microphytobenthos, meiofauna and macrofauna were synoptically investigated in front of the Emilia-Romagna coast (northern Adriatic Sea) in September 2010 and March 2011. As required by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which extends its action beyond the territorial waters (within 12 nmi) of the Member States, our findings could help to fill the gap of knowledge on the environmental status in offshore areas since the study was carried out also at >12 nmi from the coastline. In fact, sediment samples for the analysis of the benthic communities were collected from a 10-point-station grid that covered an area of about 400 km2 with water depths ranging from 13 to 50 m. The variability of the sediment grain size and other chemical variables in the sediment suggests the presence of two distinct environmental contexts that enhance the proliferation of different benthic communities. At the inshore stations (depth <20 m) the higher sand percentages and the maxima of dissolved inorganic nitrogen concentrations indicate the presence of hydrodynamic perturbations and the influence of nutrient loads of terrestrial origin. Inshore, both meio- and macrofaunal communities were poorly structured and dominated by relatively more opportunistic taxa, such as nematodes and the bivalve Corbula gibba. Offshore stations (depth >20 m) had muddier sediments, which likely exerted a greater retention of sediment-bound organic matter. These conditions seemed to favour benthic deposit feeders like meio- and macrofaunal annelids. Surprisingly, a conspicuous microphytobenthic community, mainly represented by the diatom Paralia sulcata, has been observed even at remarkable depths (~50 m) opening new questions regarding the role of these organisms in dim-light conditions. Although the investigated benthic communities were, to some extent, moderately influenced by multiple stressors, the co-existence of sensitive taxa (such as meiofaunal copepods and the amphipod Ampelisca spp.) with opportunistic ones (i.e., C. gibba) suggests that the benthic domain in the investigated area is not severely impacted.
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Copyright (c) 2016 Annalisa Franzo, Tamara Cibic, Paola Del Negro, Cinzia De Vittor
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