Meiofaunal responses to nutrient additions in a Mediterranean stream


A. Gaudes, Departament d’Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Avgda. Diagonal 645, 08028 Barcelona, Spain. E-mail:


1. The effects of a moderate addition of nutrients (twofold N and threefold P) were examined during a 2-year period to determine the response to nutrient addition in a meiofaunal community inhabiting sandy patches in a Mediterranean stream.

2. The pattern of meiofaunal assemblages exhibits a high degree of intra- and interannual variability. This pattern alternates between periods of hydrological stability and disturbances, such as floods and droughts, which is a characteristic of Mediterranean systems.

3. A before–after–control–impact (BACI) design was used to determine the outcome of the addition by comparing an upstream non-enriched reach with an enriched downstream reach. Analysis of the study data by means of a nonparametric permutational procedure (permanova) showed that fertilisation had a significant effect. Density and biomass values increased in the most abundant meiofaunal groups, including microcrustaceans, oligochaetes and chironomids. Microcrustaceans were the dominant group in the permanent meiofauna.

4. We also examined differences in microcrustacean secondary production in both reaches. Ostracods and cyclopoid copepods increased their secondary production in the impacted reach as a result of the nutrient addition.

5. Our study demonstrated that moderate nutrient enrichment can affect the biomass and production of stream meiofauna, but it is still unclear whether this effect was because of autotrophic or heterotrophic pathways.