Environmental variation and macrofauna response in a coastal area influenced by land runoff
Macrofauna community interactions with environmental variables in the water column (salinity, temperature, turbidity, transparency, suspended particulate matter, particulate organic matter, choloroplastic pigments) and in the sediment (granulometric variables, organic carbon and pigments) were investigated in a coastal area with high land runoff due to riverine and temporary stream discharges (Greece, Aegean Sea, Maliakos Gulf). Samples were taken along a distance-depositional gradient from the river mouth to the open sea at eight stations, at times of different precipitation regime from August 2000 to May 2001. The physical variables, such as transparency and median grain size, generally increased seawards, and parallelled the depositional gradient as opposed to measures of food inputs and hydrodynamic regime. High environmental heterogeneity was observed during peak precipitation. The total number of species increased seawards and from August (122 species) to May (170 species). Maximum abundance also increased from August (4953m-2) to May (10,220individualsm-2), irrespective of distance from river mouth. Species belonging to different functional groups, as to recolonization, feeding, motility and substrate preferences, coexisted at all times indicating high functional diversity. Non-parametric multivariate regression showed that at times of low, rising and falling precipitation 78-81% of community variation was explained by environmental variables, indicating that macrofauna distribution and species composition respond to food inputs and sediment characteristics. During peak land runoff the community-environment relationship weakened (57% of the variability explained). The diversity of functional traits of the most abundant species indicates that the macrofauna community can absorb the impact of increased turbidity, sedimentation and current-driven dispersion. The study offers baseline information for the integrated coastal zone management in microtidal areas with high land runoff under Mediterranean-type climate conditions. During peak land runoff the community-environment relationship weakened (57% of the variability explained) whilst species distribution ranges increased. The study shows that the functional diversity in the study area prior to high discharge period enable macrofauna community to absorb the impact of increased turbidity, sedimentation and current-driven dispersion. The study offers baseline information for the impact of high land runoff in microtidal areas under Mediterranean-type climate conditions. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.