In rocky shore systems, sessile macrobenthic assemblages may act as “ecosystem engineers” for many smaller benthic organisms. Thus, the influence of macrobenthic coverage on the diversity and assemblage structure of the harpacticoid copepod fauna was investigated in the rocky shores of a Marine Protect Area (MPA) in the Ligurian Sea (NW, Mediterranean Sea). Two sampling sites were investigated in two seasons at three different depths on both sub‐vertical and inclined reefs. A total of 61 species of copepods mainly represented by Miraciidae, Laophontidae, Longipediidae and Thalestridae were found. The complex micro‐topography of these substrata provided a wide variety of niches for many species with different lifestyles that suggests the important role of rocky shores to ensure the functioning of coastal ecosystems. The harpacticoid assemblage structure seemed mainly influenced by season and depth. The temporal spread observed is likely one of the underlying mechanisms of niche segregation that allows many species to co‐occur in this specific environment along with a subordinate spatial segregation corresponding to the depth gradient. The results seem to support the hypothesis that the different species composition of the “ecosystem engineer” (and consequently its structure changes) are relevant in structuring the copepod assemblages. The comparison with previous data on general meiofauna underlines that higher surrogacy of the taxonomic identification could be used to study rocky shore communities, but the rich diversity that these systems host can only be understood at the lower taxonomic levels. The same holds for future evaluations of impact of environmental changes (including MPA regulations) on meiofaunal assemblages.

Habitat‐Diversity Relations between Sessile Macrobenthos and Benthic Copepods in the Rocky Shores of a Marine Protected Area

Eleonora Grassi
Investigation
;
Maria Balsamo
Writing – Original Draft Preparation
;
Federica Semprucci
Supervision
2021-01-01

Abstract

In rocky shore systems, sessile macrobenthic assemblages may act as “ecosystem engineers” for many smaller benthic organisms. Thus, the influence of macrobenthic coverage on the diversity and assemblage structure of the harpacticoid copepod fauna was investigated in the rocky shores of a Marine Protect Area (MPA) in the Ligurian Sea (NW, Mediterranean Sea). Two sampling sites were investigated in two seasons at three different depths on both sub‐vertical and inclined reefs. A total of 61 species of copepods mainly represented by Miraciidae, Laophontidae, Longipediidae and Thalestridae were found. The complex micro‐topography of these substrata provided a wide variety of niches for many species with different lifestyles that suggests the important role of rocky shores to ensure the functioning of coastal ecosystems. The harpacticoid assemblage structure seemed mainly influenced by season and depth. The temporal spread observed is likely one of the underlying mechanisms of niche segregation that allows many species to co‐occur in this specific environment along with a subordinate spatial segregation corresponding to the depth gradient. The results seem to support the hypothesis that the different species composition of the “ecosystem engineer” (and consequently its structure changes) are relevant in structuring the copepod assemblages. The comparison with previous data on general meiofauna underlines that higher surrogacy of the taxonomic identification could be used to study rocky shore communities, but the rich diversity that these systems host can only be understood at the lower taxonomic levels. The same holds for future evaluations of impact of environmental changes (including MPA regulations) on meiofaunal assemblages.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11576/2687476
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