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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 506:175-192 (2014)  -  DOI:

Seagrass amphipod assemblages in a Mediterranean marine protected area: a multiscale approach

Nicolas Sturaro1,*, Gilles Lepoint1, Amanda Pérez-Perera1, Simon Vermeulen1, Pieraugusto Panzalis2, Augusto Navone2, Sylvie Gobert1

1Laboratory of Oceanology, MARE Centre, University of Liège, Allée du Six Août 13, Building B6c (Sart Tilman),
4000 Liège, Belgium
2Marine Protected Area of Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo, Via Dante 1, 07026 Olbia, Italy
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key tool for conservation purposes, but few studies have assessed the responses of small macrozoobenthic assemblages to different protection levels in the Mediterranean Sea. In this study, we used a hierarchical sampling design spanning 3 orders of magnitude (1, 10 and 100 m) to investigate whether a MPA exerts an effect on amphipod assemblages associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows. We report spatial and temporal variability patterns of amphipod assemblages in 4 different protection levels and discuss potential confounding effects, such as habitat features. The structure of amphipod assemblages based on density data was patchy at all spatial scales investigated, but differed markedly among protection levels. Among outstanding points, multiscale analyses showed that lower densities and/or biomasses of several taxa occurred within fully protected and external areas, in comparison with partially protected areas (PPAs). Furthermore, P. oceanica meadow features (shoot density, leaf and epiphyte biomasses, coefficient A and litter biomass) accounted for only a low proportion of the total variability. We consequently infer that the observed patchiness is likely to occur for multiple and interconnected reasons, ranging from the ecological and behavioural traits of amphipod species to protection-dependent processes (e.g. fish predation). Long-term multiscale spatial and temporal monitoring, as well as experimental manipulations, are needed to fully understand the effects of protection on macrozoobenthic assemblages.

KEY WORDS: Amphipod assemblages · Posidonia oceanica · Seagrass · Hierarchical sampling design · Marine protected area

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Cite this article as: Sturaro N, Lepoint G, Pérez-Perera A, Vermeulen S, Panzalis P, Navone A, Gobert S (2014) Seagrass amphipod assemblages in a Mediterranean marine protected area: a multiscale approach. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 506:175-192.

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