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Title: Low faunal diversity on Maltese sandy beaches : fact or artefact?
Authors: Deidun, Alan
Azzopardi, Marthese
Saliba, Stephen
Schembri, Patrick J.
Keywords: Animal diversity -- Malta
Beaches -- Malta
Biodiversity -- Malta
Animals -- Malta
Issue Date: 2003
Publisher: Academic Press
Citation: Deidun, A., Azzopardi, M., Saliba, S., & Schembri, P. J. (2003). Low faunal diversity on Maltese sandy beaches : fact or artefact? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 58(supplement 1), 83-92.
Abstract: Eight sandy beaches on Malta and two on Gozo were sampled for macrofauna to test the hypothesis that Maltese beaches have an intrinsically low diversity. Stations distributed in the supralittoral (dry zone), mediolittoral (wet zone) and upper infralittoral (submerged zone to 1m water depth) were sampled by sieving core samples and standardised searching during daytime, and pitfall trapping and standardised sweeping of the water column using a hand-net at night, as appropriate. Physical parameters of the sediment were measured and human occupancy of the beaches was estimated. From the supralittoral and mediolittoral, 39 species represented by 1584 individuals were collected by the combined techniques of pitfall trapping, sieving and standard searching. For Ramla beach, which had the highest diversity, 267 individuals representing 25 infaunal species were collected by sieving from a combined volume of 1.175m3 of sand, and 149 individuals representing 28 epifaunal species were collected by standardised searching from a combined area of 700m2 of sand during two winter and two summer sampling sessions between 1992 and 1993. For nine other beaches sampled during the summer of 2000, only six macrofaunal species were collected from core samples, with overall population densities ranging from 4.13 to 45.45 individualsm 2. Only 92 individuals belonging to 12 species were collected by hand-net from the uppermost infralittoral of five beaches sampled using this method during the summer of 2000. Taxa of gastropods, bivalves, decapods, mysids and staphylinid beetles generally abundant on Mediterranean sandy beaches, were entirely absent from the beaches sampled. Few correlations that could explain the impoverishment of Maltese sandy beaches were found between physical parameters and faunal abundances, and other factors such as inadequate sampling effort, human disturbance and marine pollution were also excluded; however, seasonally biased sampling may partly explain the results obtained. One factor that may explain why certain species are missing could be lack of recruitment, due to Malta’s geographical isolation from the European and African mainlands. 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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