MEPS 144:119-131 (1996)  -  doi:10.3354/meps144119

Effects of environmental stress on ascidian populations in Algeciras Bay (southern Spain). Possible marine bioindicators?

Naranjo SA, Carballo JL, García-Gómez JC

The distribution and abundance of littoral ascidians were analyzed with respect to their possible relationships with environmental stress. As part of a multidisciplinary research project on the benthic communities in Algeciras Bay, southern Spain, a suite of environmental variables was measured (hydrodynamism, silting, suspended solids and organic matter). After displaying the similarities of fauna through clustering and ordination of sampling sites, the relationships between community differences and changes in the abiotic component were established based on the BIO-ENV procedure and Canonical Correspondence Analysis. Hydrodynamism and the percentage of organic matter in the silt is the variable combination that best explains (Spearman correlation of 0.82) the biotic structure. While all ascidians show a certain tolerance to diverse environmental factors, some species such as Ciona intestinalis, Diplosoma spongiforme, Phallusia mammillata, Microcosmus squamiger, Styela plicata and Synoicum argus could be considered as indicators of areas which have been subject to intense stress (substrate transformation, water stagnation and sedimentation excess) over long periods of time, whereas others such as Aplidium conicum, Aplidium punctum, Clavelina dellavallei, Halocynthia papillosa and Stolonica socialis, which live only in natural and non-perturbed rock areas, could be categorized as species very sensitive to stress, as well as indicators of good conditions.

Ascidian communities · Environmental stress · Multivariate community measurements · Bioindicators

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