The effects of seagrass (Zostera japonica) canopy structure on associated fauna: a study using artificial seagrass units and sampling of natural beds.

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Lee, SY
Fong, CW
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The importance of seagrass canopy to associated fauna was assessed by comparing the species richness, abundance and diversity of the epi- and infaunal macroinvertebrate assemblages in a seagrass (Zostera japonica Ascherson and Graebner) bed and the adjacent unvegetated area in Hong Kong. Seagrass cover had significant effects on the composition and abundance of the associated fauna and the amount of detritus accumulated on the sediment surface. Detritus abundance was significantly higher in the seagrass bed, and was positively correlated with both the above- and belowground biomass of Z. japonica. Both the abundance and species richness of the epi- and infauna were significantly positively correlated with the belowground biomass of the seagrass and detritus standing crop. Macrofaunal species richness was higher (118) in the seagrass bed than the adjacent unvegetated areas (70), with a higher degree of similarity between the infauna than the epifauna of the two habitats. While all species recorded from the unvegetated areas were found in the seagrass bed, 48 species occurred only in the seagrass-covered areas. Species richness of epifauna was significantly higher in the seagrass bed, but there was no difference between infaunal species of the two habitats. On the contrary, faunal (epi- and infauna) abundance was significantly higher in seagrass areas. The seagrass bed also supported species of small tellinid bivalves previously not recorded from Hong Kong. Artificial seagrass units (ASUs, 0.2 m2) with four combinations of leaf density and leaf length and a control (bare sand) were placed at short distances from natural patches of Z. japonica. The composition, abundance and biomass of the epibenthos associated with the ASUs and the control were recorded after 3 months in the field. While species richness did not differ among the treatments, total abundance of epibenthos was significantly higher in the high density-long leaves (HL) treatment than in the control. Results of a discriminant analysis using log-transformed abundance data suggest that the gastropod Clithon oualaniensis, the mussel Musculista senhousia and the crab Thalamita sp. were important species distinguishing the assemblages in the various treatments. All the three species were significantly more abundant in the HL treatment than in the low density-short leaves (LS) treatment and the control. By contrast, there was no significant difference in the biomass of the epifauna, but discriminant analysis again separated the five treatments based on the composition of the biomass, with the same three species identified as the most important discriminating species. The species richness and abundance of the epifauna associated with the ASUs were similar to the adjacent unvegetated areas, but significantly lower than in the Zostera patches. The physical canopy structure of Z. japonica beds increased the abundance of the epibenthos, potentially through provision of canopy and indirectly through trapping of detritus.

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Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

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© 2001 Elsevier : Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher : This journal is available online - use hypertext links.

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