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Assessing inter-beach differences in semi-terrestrial arthropod assemblages on Maltese pocket sandy beaches (Central Mediterranean)

Authors


  • Conflict of interest The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Alan Deidun, Department of Biology, University of Malta, Msida MSD2080, Malta.
E-mail: alan.deidun@um.edu.mt

Abstract

The distinctiveness of macrofaunal assemblages on different sandy beaches in the Maltese Islands was previously suggested by different single-season studies. A multi-seasonal sampling programme using pitfall trapping was implemented on four Maltese beaches to test the occurrence of this phenomenon. A total of 29,302 individuals belonging to 191 species were collected over a 2-year period, during which the beaches were sampled once per calendar season. A total of 77 species were recorded from single Maltese beaches only, of which nine were psammophiles. Non-metric multidimensional scaling analyses of pitfall trap species-abundance data resulted in a weak separation pattern, with samples grouping mainly in terms of beach and island rather than in terms of season or year of sampling, No physical variable could conclusively explain these patterns. It is concluded that although operating on Maltese beaches, macrofaunal assemblage distinctiveness is weaker than originally thought and can be attributed to the presence/absence or abundance of just a few psammophilic species. It is postulated that this phenomenon may be related to the ‘pocket beach’ nature of Maltese beaches, where headlands on either side of the beach to a large extent prevent the occurrence of longshore currents, resulting in semi-isolation of the populations of psammophilic species. A large number of single-beach records reported in this study highlight the high degree of beta diversity and spatial heterogeneity of Maltese beaches, and the conservation importance of the individual beach macrofaunal assemblages.

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