MEPS 336:99-110 (2007)  -  doi:10.3354/meps336099

Effects of Spartina alterniflora invasion on benthic nematode communities in the Yangtze Estuary

Huili Chen, Bo Li, Jianbo Hu, Jiakuan Chen, Jihua Wu*

Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, Institute of Biodiversity Science, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, PR China
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Invasions of exotic plant species in estuaries have occurred worldwide, and may profoundly affect native biodiversity and estuarine ecosystem functioning. To assess the effect of plant invasions on benthic meiofauna, we compared the nematode communities in marshes dominated, respectively, by invasive Spartina alterniflora and native Scirpus mariqueter and Phragmites australis at 3 local sites over 2 seasons in the Yangtze River estuary, PR China. S. alterniflora stands had generally lower nematode trophic diversity than the stands of the 2 native plants, suggesting that the exotic plant led to a simplified benthic food web. The relative abundance of bacterial-feeding nematodes tended to increase in S. alterniflora marshes compared to P. australis marshes. The increased bacterial-feeding nematodes in S. alterniflora stands are likely to reflect the altered decomposition processes, rates and pathways, which may, in turn, modify belowground nutrient cycling of the estuarine ecosystems. The dissimilarity in nematode community structure between S. alterniflora and S. mariqueter marshes was smaller than that between S. alterniflora and P. australis marshes, and the dissimilarity between Spartina-invaded and native marshes was even smaller than between the 2 native plant marshes. It is suggested that the detection of the ecological consequences of plant invasions depends on which native plant species is considered. Site effects were generally detected in the comparison of sediment properties and nematodes among 3 plant marshes. Sediment water content, electrical conductivity, bacterial biomass and litter biomass were identified as the most important factors in the shaping of the nematode communities.

KEY WORDS: Community structure · Cordgrass · C3 plant · C4 plant · Diversity · Exotic plant · Nematodes · Wetlands

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