MEPS 197:139-149 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps197139

Succession in marine benthic habitats and fauna in response to oxygen deficiency: analysed by sediment profile-imaging and by grab samples

Hans C. Nilsson*, Rutger Rosenberg

Department of Marine Ecology, Göteborg University, Kristineberg Marine Research Station, 450 34 Fiskebäckskil, Sweden

ABSTRACT: This study shows, for the first time, in situ images of changes in marine benthic habitats in response to oxygen deficiency. Tight coupling is demonstrated between gradual degradation of benthic habitat and faunal behaviour, species richness, abundance and biomass. The critical oxygen level that forced changes in the benthic faunal successional stages was ~10% that of air saturation (~0.7 ml O2 l-1). Before this critical saturation level was reached, tube-building polychaetes their tubes extended higher into the water column, the width of the sub-oxic sediment layer decreased, and vertical animal burrows (formerly oxidised and brown in colour) became sulphidic and black. Over a 10 mo hypoxic period (June 1997 to April 1998) in the Gullmarsfjord (Swedish west coast), benthic community successional stages declined from equilibrium to virtually azoic conditions. As normoxic conditions returned, pioneering stages gradually recolonised the area.

KEY WORDS: REMOTS · SPI · Hypoxia · Anoxia · Melinna cristata

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