MEPS 381:189-197 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07914

Tidal flat nematode responses to hypoxia and subsequent macrofauna-mediated alterations of sediment properties

C. Van Colen1,*, F. Montserrat2,3, K. Verbist1, M. Vincx1, M. Steyaert1, J. Vanaverbeke1, P. M. J. Herman2, S. Degraer1,4, T. Ysebaert2,5

1Ghent University, Department of Biology, Marine Biology Section, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
2Netherlands Institute for Ecological Research (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, POB 140,
4400 AC Yerseke, The Netherlands
3Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Hydraulics Section, POB 5048, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands
4Management Unit of the Mathematical Model of the North Sea, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Gulledelle 100, 1200 Brussels, Belgium
5Wageningen University, Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies, POB 77, 4400 AB Yerseke, The Netherlands

ABSTRACT: To assess the role of macrofauna-mediated sediment changes on nematode community recovery, we examined the temporal development of macrobenthos, nematode communities and sediment properties following hypoxia in 16 m2 replicated plots over a 6 mo period. Hypoxia drastically changed nematode community composition (i.e. reduced diversity and abundances of all dominant nematodes, except Odontophora spp.), but complete mortality, as was the case for the macrobenthos, did not occur. Macrofauna diversity recovered slowly, but community composition approached that of control communities after several months. In contrast, nematode diversity recovered to control values within 1 mo but, subsequently, decreased again; hence, no clear convergence towards the control community composition was apparent. This diversity decline and lack of community recovery was mainly attributed to abundance overshoots of the epistrate feeding nematodes Chromadora spp., Daptonema spp. and Ptycholaimellus ponticus in the treatments, which dominated the treatment community after 2 mo. Nematode community reassembling was strongly related to the coupled macrobenthos-environmental temporal development. The dynamics of 2 sediment characteristics, which were both mediated by the colonizing macrobenthos, are presented as possible determinant factors for this relationship: (1) low nematode post-settlement resuspension resulting from stable sediments at early macrofauna recovery stages and (2) enhanced nematode reproduction and settlement success in a dense microphytobenthos mat in relation to the temporal variation in macrobenthos grazing pressure and bioturbation. In conclusion, the strong relationships between macrobenthos recovery, environmental development and nematode community development after hypoxia highlight the importance of macrobenthos–sediment interactions in the recovery and structuring of nematode communities.


KEY WORDS: Benthic community recovery · Macrofauna-meiofauna interactions · Sediment dynamics · Hypoxia · Intertidal mudflat · Westerschelde estuary · The Netherlands


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Cite this article as: Van Colen C, Montserrat F, Verbist K, Vincx M and others (2009) Tidal flat nematode responses to hypoxia and subsequent macrofauna-mediated alterations of sediment properties. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 381:189-197

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