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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2016

Tropical seaweed beds are important habitats for mobile invertebrate epifauna

Tano, Stina; Eggertsen, M.; Wikstrom, S. A.; Berkstrom, C.; Buriyo, A. S.; Hailing, C.


Marine macrophyte habitats in temperate regions provide productive habitats for numerous organisms, with their abundant and diverse invertebrate epifaunal assemblages constituting important linkages between benthic primary production and higher trophic levels. While it is commonly also recognized that certain vegetated habitats in the tropics, such as seagrass meadows, can harbour diverse epifaunal assemblages and may constitute important feeding grounds to fish, little is known about the epifaunal assemblages associated with tropical seaweed beds. We investigated the abundance, biomass and taxon richness of the mobile epifaunal community (>= 1 mm) of tropical East African seaweed beds, as well as the abundance of invertivorous fishes, and compared it with that of closely situated seagrass meadows, to establish the ecological role of seaweed beds as habitat for epifauna as well as potential feeding grounds for fish. The results showed that seaweed beds had a higher abundance of mobile epifauna (mean SD: 10,600 +/- 6000 vs 3700 +/- 2800 per m(2)) than seagrass meadows, as well as a higher invertebrate biomass (35.9 +/- 46.8 vs 1.9 +/- 2.1 g per m(2)) and taxon richness (32.7 +/- 11.8 vs 19.1 +/- 6.3 taxa per sample), despite having a lower macrophyte biomass. Additionally, the high abundance of invertivorous fishes found in seaweed beds indicates that they act as important feeding grounds to several fish species in the region. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Tropical; Seaweed; Mobile epifauna; Diversity; Macroalgae; Seagrass

Published in

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
2016, Volume: 183, number: Part A, pages: 1-12

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