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Pilot assessment of depth related distribution of macrofauna in surf zone along Dutch coast and its implications for coastal management


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

Gerard M. Janssen, RWS Centre for Water Management, PO Box 17, 8200 AA Lelystad, The Netherlands.


Surf zones are highly dynamic, physically stressful parts of sandy beach ecosystems. The high wave energy of surf zones has in the past severely hampered ecological surveys of these systems. Here we used a novel technique to collect fauna from this environment along the Dutch coast. A large vehicle in the form a tripod that drives along the sandy seafloor and supports a sampling platform 11 m above the water line can collect both infaunal (grabs) samples and pull beam trawls for epibenthos. The distribution and diversity of macrofauna were studied at different depths in the surf zone along the Dutch coast. Species diversity and abundance increased with increasing depth of the water column. This increase was especially noticeable on the seaward side of the outer breaker bar. Within the surf zone, in the trough between the two breaker bars, there were spots of high diversity and abundance of macrobenthic infauna. Moreover, the area is also important for epibenthic and fish species, like the commercially important flatfish sole. Spatial patterns of species richness and abundance across an onshore-offshore gradient from the beach to seawards of the breakers suggest the presence of faunal zonation in this environment. The high abundance recorded in troughs was primarily caused by patches of juvenile Sand mason Lanice conchilega. The management implications of these results are that we suggest to protect the surf zone, including the trough between the two breaker bars, as a potential area of high diversity and abundance and to reconsider the objectives of the EU-Habitat Directive and the Water Framework Directive for the coastal area.

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