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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 160:185-196 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps160185

The continental shelf of Crete: structure of macrobenthic communities

Ioannis Karakassis*, Anastasios Eleftheriou

Institute of Marine Biology of Crete, PO Box 2214, GR-71003 Heraklion, Crete, Greece

The analysis of 99 quantitative macrobenthic samples taken from the Cretan shelf at depths ranging from 40 to 190 m yielded 547 species from a total of 18858 individuals. Both average abundance and biomass decreased with depth in this zone by 85 and 75% respectively. The fauna was not consistently related to the biocoenoses proposed for the Mediterranean, at least with regard to the distribution of characteristic species in the sampled stations. Diversity also decreased with depth, resulting in a rather impoverished fauna towards the outer shelf. The main factors explaining the overall macrofaunal distribution were depth and chlorophyll a, while further analysis for the 4 different groups of stations identified by cluster analysis revealed that factors controlling the structure of the assemblages also change with depth: in the shallow stations sedimentary characteristics such as grain size play an important role while in deep offshore stations macrofauna is largely shaped by food availability and the quality of sedimenting phytoplankton biomass.

Macrofaunal community · Abundance · Biomass · Diversity · Particulate organic carbon · Chlorophyll · ATP · Redox potential · Eastern Mediterranean · Continental shelf

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