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Mangrove benthic macrofauna: drivers of community structure and functional traits at multiple spatial scales

Ricardo F. Freitas*, Paulo R. Pagliosa

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Environmental processes acting at multiple spatial scales influence the structure and function of macrofaunal communities in marine habitats. However, the relative contributions of small- and large-scale factors in shaping faunal communities are still poorly understood. We investigated the relative contributions of climate, geophysical and soil properties, and forest structure on structural and functional characteristics of Brazilian coastal mangrove macrofauna. We found that macrofaunal community structure is mainly driven by large-scale factors, such as minimum air temperature and runoff, which significantly differed among the coastal settings investigated. Conversely, annelid assemblage functional traits were correlated with small-scale factors such as aboveground biomass, subsurface roots biomass, soil bulk density, and soil phosphorus. Annelids with diversified and more complex functional traits (e.g., with respect to appendages, segments, parapodia) preferentially inhabited sites with low subsurface root biomass, while annelids with slender body plan were more common in sites with dense root mats. Thus, while climate and geophysical conditions drive benthic macrofaunal community structure at larger spatial scales (i.e. coastal setting) in this system, vegetation and soil factors at smaller spatial scales (i.e, site) were more related to annelid functional characteristics.