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Spatial and temporal patterns of benthic invertebrates in the Tagus estuary, Portugal: comparison between subtidal and an intertidal mudflat
Susana França, Catarina Vinagre, Miguel A. Pardal and Henrique N. Cabral

Intertidal mudflats are a dominant feature in many estuarine systems and may be a significant component of the feeding grounds available for many fish and bird species. Therefore, it is crucial to determine the importance and role that this particular habitat plays for the different estuarine communities. Spatial and temporal dynamics of macrobenthic communities in an intertidal mudflat of the Tagus estuary were assessed in order to determine the role of this habitat in the whole estuarine functioning. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities were sampled monthly in two intertidal areas (upper and lower) and in the adjoining subtidal area for one year. Macroinvertebrate density and biomass in the intertidal mudflat were higher than in the subtidal area, but no clear trends were found between the lower and upper intertidal area. Spatial patterns in the community were more pronounced than seasonal patterns. This benthic community was characterised by high densities of Pygospio elegans, Scrobicularia plana, Cyathura carinata, Hydrobia ulvae and Nereis diversicolor. Abundance and biomass values in this intertidal mudflat were considered low in comparison with other estuarine habitats, namely seagrass beds. Nevertheless, this habitat plays an important role for the main species present in the community, acting as a key area for recruitment, with high concentrations for many invertebrate species.

Keywords: benthic macroinvertebrates, community structure, intertidal mudflat, subtidal, Tagus estuary.
Contents of this volume Sci. Mar. 73(2) : 307-318 Back PDF
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