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Title: Long or short? Investigating the effect of beach length and other environmental parameters on macrofaunal assemblages of Maltese pocket beaches
Authors: Deidun, Alan
Schembri, Patrick J.
Keywords: Beaches -- Malta
Biodiversity -- Malta
Species diversity -- Malta
Psammophis -- Malta
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: Elsevier Ltd.
Citation: Deidun, A., & Schembri, P. J. (2008). Long or short? Investigating the effect of beach length and other environmental parameters on macrofaunal assemblages of Maltese pocket beaches. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 79(1), 17-23.
Abstract: Despite numerous published studies that have evaluated the influence of different physical parameters, including beach slope, sediment organic content and grain size, on beach macrofaunal assemblages, very few studies have investigated the influence of beach length on biotic attributes of the same assemblages. Four beaches on the Maltese Islands were sampled using pitfall traps at night for eight consecutive seasons during 2001–2003. Macrofaunal collections were dominated by arthropods, mostly isopods (especially Tylos europaeus) and tenebrionid beetles (especially Phaleria spp.). The environmental variables of beach slope, exposure to wave action, sediment organic content, mean particle diameter, log beach length, beach width and the beach deposit index (BDI) were regressed against a number of biotic parameters, including log individual abundance, total species, Shannon–Wiener (H0) diversity index value and the psammophilic fraction of the total species collected, whilst BIO-ENV and NMDS were used to identify the physical parameter which could best explain observed biotic patterns. RELATE was used to assess the long-term persistence of macrofaunal assemblages on beaches of different lengths. Results from this study suggest that, whilst the influence of beach length and beach width on individual abundance and total species number is unimportant, these ‘beach-area’ parameters may affect the taxonomic composition of a beach assemblage, mainly in terms of the psammophilic fraction of assemblages, as well as the permanence of macrofaunal assemblages on a beach. Shorter and narrower beaches were found to be more prone to sporadic and random events of colonisation by euryoecious species. In the absence of human disturbance and mass mortality events, beaches of limited dimensions can still maintain stable macrofaunal assemblages. Individual abundance and total species number could not be related to a single or small suite of physical parameters. The study further highlights the need to include biological interactions, the degree of human disturbance and other variables such as environmental heterogeneity and the connectivity of the individual beaches when assessing inter-beach differences in macrofaunal assemblages.
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