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Large-scale environmental influences on the benthic macroinfauna of the southern Gulf of Mexico

Hernández-Arana, H.A., Rowden, A.A., Attrill, M.J., Warwick, R.M. and Gold-Bouchot, G. (2003) Large-scale environmental influences on the benthic macroinfauna of the southern Gulf of Mexico. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 58 (4). pp. 825-841.

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The influence of large-scale natural disturbance from winter storms ('northers') and river runoff on the macrobenthic community structure of the southern Gulf of Mexico was investigated in both carbonate and transitional carbonate-terrigenous sedimentary environments. Samples of the infauna were obtained in three seasons from 13 stations from two 250 km transects along 80-170 and 20-50 m water depth. Samples after the northers season had the lowest total number of families and individuals, 114 and 2940, respectively, compared to the dry and rainy seasons with 129 and 132 families and 11580 and 15266 individuals, respectively. Spatial patterns of macroinfauna composition varied across and along the shelf as a response to sedimentary environments and depth. Coarser sediments from the carbonate area harboured the highest mean densities per station with 500-24,000 individuals m-2 and 108-122 families in total, compared to the transitional sediment with 500-8200 individuals m-2 and 56-74 families across the three seasons. Univariate and multivariate statistical techniques demonstrated that low densities and number of taxa were associated with winter storms, but storm influence was dependent on depth and sediment type. Multiple linear regression analysis and BIOENV analysis indicated that sediment mean grain size, percentage of clay and organic matter best explained the macroinfauna spatial patterns, although BIOENV indicated that depth has an overriding role. An increase in densities of opportunistic taxa (numerous polychaetes of small sizes) was observed four months after the 'northers' and this was more evident in the area of carbonate sediment. Additionally a combined disturbance from northers and river runoff is suspected to be responsible for a naturally impoverished macroinfauna community in the transitional sedimentary environment.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Academic Press
Copyright: © 2003 Elsevier Ltd.
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