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Role of Posidonia oceanica bed structure in determining the diversity of associated macrofaunal assemblages


This project initially formed part of Dr Borg’s Ph.D. studies at the University of Pymouth (U.K.), but is being extended as one of his main areas of interest and research.

Seagrasses form beds that constitute some of the most ecologically important shallow-water marine habitats worldwide. Seagrass beds provide a physical refuge for numerous invertebrate and fish species, food and an extended substratum for attached plants and animals. They also support important commercial fisheries through their role as nurseries for many species, and have important interactions with the physical environment, for example by trapping sediment and stabilising soft bottoms. Various studies have shown that seagrass beds support a greater species richness and abundance of fauna than other habitat types. However, faunal diversity varies greatly between one seagrass species and another, and also between different bed types (e.g. non-fragmented versus fragmented beds) of the same seagrass. Several different hypotheses have been put forward to account for these variations, each proposing different factors. It appears that the species richness and abundance of fauna associated with seagrasses depend on a large number of complex interacting factors, some of which have not been given due consideration so far.

In the Mediterranean, Posidonia oceanica forms the most extensive seagrass beds at depths ranging 1 m to 40 m. The large size of this plant and the dense rhizome network it forms result in beds that have a very high structural complexity. In spite of the importance of P. oceanica beds, studies addressing the influence of bed structure on the species richness and abundance of associated fauna are lacking. The aim of this research is to assess the influence of different bed types of P. oceanica on the diversity of associated biota.

A dense meadow of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica at a depth of 6m in Mellieha Bay, Malta. P. oceanica meadows are is usually found at depths ranging from 1m to 40m in the Mediterranean but in the local clear and transparent coastal waters they have been recorded from greater depths.





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