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Lecture 8 Soft Sediment Intertidal, Estuaries. Soft Sediment Intertidal.

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Presentation on theme: "Lecture 8 Soft Sediment Intertidal, Estuaries. Soft Sediment Intertidal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lecture 8 Soft Sediment Intertidal, Estuaries

2 Soft Sediment Intertidal

3 Sand vs. Mud Bottom Benthos SandMud Interstitial microfauna presentNo interstitial fauna Meiofauna dominated by nematodes, polychaetes, copepods Meiofauna dominated by nematodes, coppepods, ostracods Macrofauna dominated by filter feeding bivalves Macrofauna dominated by deposit feeding polychaetes Abundance and productivity low (thousands/m 2 ) Abundance and productivity high (tens to hundreds of thousnads/m 2 )

4 Soft Sediment Intertidal Zonation not as distinct as on rocky shores Reduced vertical desiccation and temperature stress gradients Organisms can burrow to avoid temperature stress and desiccation Variation in larval settlement not as important as it is on hard substrates

5 Variation in Zonation TemperateTropical Supra-littoralamphipodsghost crabs Mid-littoralisopods Intra-littoralMoon snail, large clams, sand dollars

6 Biogeography in Soft-Bottom Sediments Widest variation in densities and highest species diversity occurs in tropics Temperate beaches usually have a high amount of faunal diversity, a greater amount of longer-lived species, and a greater stability of faunal composition than tropical beaches

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8 Interspecific Competition in Soft Sediments Food and space for burrows is limited Burrowing invertebrates compete for space within sediment Dominant species found at different levels below sediment-water interface Little evidence of competitive exclusion

9 Soft Sediments - Vertical Stratification Experimentally reduce density of deep-dwelling clams, remaining individuals grow faster Removal of shallow dwelling species of bivalves has no effect on growth of deeper- dwelling species Likely limiting factor = space

10 Saccoglossus bromophenolosus Some burrowing species produce Bromine poisons Discourages settlement of other species (possibly discourages predation also) Soft Sediments - Competition

11 Food Supply in Soft-Sediment Intertidal Suspension Feeders – Phytoplankton suspended in water Deposit Feeders – Microalgae and bacteria on sediment surface – Decomposing organic matter – Input can be spatially variable

12 Patchy occurrence of sea lettuce (Ulva sp.) leads to spatially patchy inputs of particulate organic matter Patchy POM leads to patchy distribution of small polychaetes and mud snails Food Supply in Soft-Sediment Intertidal

13 Food supply for deposit feeders is more stable than the food supply for suspension feeders – Diatoms and other microalgae that deposit feeders eat are a renewable resource Can have seasonal “blooms” of deposit feeders

14 Movement of Organisms Swash riders: move up and down to maintain burrowing position in moist sand, as tide rises and falls

15 Predation in Soft Substrates Predation and physical disturbance are likely the main processes responsible for maintaining high variability in distribution of organisms Do not see a lot of competitive exclusion, so predation typically has little effect on species diversity Partial predation is significant in soft substrates

16 Predation – Types of Predators Surface predators – prey at or near surface; consume whole animals or only parts of their prey Burrowing predators – move down tubes and burrows of prey to attack them Digging predators – excavate through the sediments to obtain their prey

17 Differential Effects of Predators Quammen (1984) examined effects of birds, crabs, and fishes on tidal flat communities – Crabs had greatest impact; fishes had least impact; effects of birds were variable and depended on habitat type Reise (1978) – found that smaller predators can have greater effects than larger predators

18 Predation – Seasonal Effects Seasonal influxes of predators can devastate local soft-sediment communities Predators focus on most abundant species

19 Disturbance and Habitat Heterogeneity Disturbance re-suspends sediments and blasts out organisms 1 st successional species usually small polychaetes Physical and biological disturbance Organisms can affect habitat heterogeneity

20 Spatial Scales of Disturbance

21 Estuaries, Salt Marshes, Seagrasses, and Mangroves

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23 Estuaries

24 Estuary = partially enclosed section of the coast where freshwater from rivers mixes with seawater Watershed = the surrounding land that provides freshwater input to the estuary

25 Watersheds Tampa Bay WatershedMobile Bay Watershed

26 Types of Estuaries

27 Estuarine Structure Estuarine structure is controlled by seaward flow of freshwater combined with tidal mixing

28 Estuarine Structure Salinity structure of an estuary is determined by: – Watershed topography – Slope and size of river(s) feeding into main part of estuary – Size of main estuary channel – Tidal flow

29 Estuarine Structure Overall river discharge important to salinity transitions within estuaries Storm events (hurricanes, etc.) can lower salinity throughout estuary

30 Productivity in Estuaries Geologically ephemeral but biologically rich Nutrients from freshwater sources and nutrients recycled from seabed support high levels of primary production

31 Estuarine Species and Salinity Marine species can generally tolerate salinity fluctuations as long as salinity stays above ppt Vertical salinity stratification – bottom organisms can go farther upstream than planktonic species Mixed estuaries – infaunal species experience less salinity fluctuation than epifaunal species b/c of buffering effect of sediment pore waters

32 Estuarine Species and Salinity Number of marine species declines with decreasing salinity, especially in so-called critical salinity range of 3-8 ppt

33 Two-Phase Life Cycles of Some Estuarine Inhabitants Some species complete their entire life cycles within an estuary Other species have a two-phase life cycle in the estuary and on the continental shelf

34 Suspension Feeders in Estuaries Retention time = the average number of days that a phytoplankton cell stays in an estuary Turnover time = the number of days that it takes for a bivalve population to completely filter the water column Not all water in estuary may be able to be filtered by bivalves due to: – Stratification – Spatial heterogeneity of current flow

35 Suspension Feeders in Estuaries In well-mixed estuaries, bivalves may be able to greatly reduce phytoplankton densities

36 Top-down and Bottom-up Effects in Estuaries Increased nutrient inputs (bottom-up) – High levels of phytoplankton in water column can decrease water clarity – Ungrazed phytoplankton dies and sinks to bottom

37 Top-down and Bottom-up Effects in Estuaries Loss of top predators due to overfishing (top- down) can have cascading effects on lower trophic levels Example:

38 Threats to Estuaries Pollution Shoreline habitat alteration Biological invasions


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