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Trophic importance of subtidal metazoan meiofauna : evidence from in situ exclusion experiments on soft and rocky substrates
Danovaro, R.; Scopa, M.; Gambi, C.; Fraschetti, S. (2007). Trophic importance of subtidal metazoan meiofauna : evidence from in situ exclusion experiments on soft and rocky substrates. Mar. Biol. (Berl.) 152(2): 339-350.
In: Marine Biology: International Journal on Life in Oceans and Coastal Waters. Springer: Heidelberg; Berlin. ISSN 0025-3162; e-ISSN 1432-1793, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Danovaro, R., more
  • Scopa, M.
  • Gambi, C., more
  • Fraschetti, S., more

    In coastal marine ecosystems, predation might aVect spatial distribution and population dynamics of benthic assemblages. Here, by means of experimental exclusion of potential predators, we compared the eVects of epibenthic predation on metazoan meiofaunal assemblages on soft and rocky substrates. DiVerent patterns of abundance were observed in uncaged versus caged plots, across habitats. In caged soft substrates, the abundance of Nematodes, Copepods and Polychaetes increased by 56, 45, 57%, respectively, in the Wrst 3 months. An increase in the number of meiofaunal taxa was also observed. The exclusion of predators from rocky substrates showed less clear patterns. It did not aVect the number of taxa while a decrease in meiofaunal abundance was observed. Our results suggest that the exclusion of epibenthic predators had clear eVect on total metazoan meiofaunal abundance and on the number of taxa, only in soft bottoms. The diVerent impact of predation across habitats can be potentially explained by diVerences in terms of spatial variability and substrate complexity. We estimated that, coarsely, more than 75% of total metazoan meiofaunal production can be channeled to higher trophic levels through predation on soft-bottoms. Among meiofaunal taxa, Polychaetes and Nematodes provided the major contribution to benthic energy transfers. These results suggest the trophic relevance of metazoan meiofauna in coastal food webs and claim for the reWnement of further experiments for the quantiWcation of its role in diVerent ecological systems.

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