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Keywords:

  • Dee Estuary;
  • functional traits;
  • intertidal;
  • nutrients;
  • porewater

Abstract

Sedimentary marine systems are often highly productive and perform important nutrient regeneration functions as they efficiently decompose organic material. In recent years the role of habitat effects and of species composition in ecosystem functioning has become of interest. Estuarine environments are frequently subject to considerable anthropogenic pressures whilst supporting a variety of habitats ranging from well sorted soft muds through biogenically stable sediments to highly mobile coarse sands. There is therefore considerable spatial complexity in habitat type and faunal composition. This study set out to observe the effects of altering the topographical habitat features of an estuarine mudflat on a range of porewater nutrient concentrations (NH4+, NO3, NO2, PO43− and SiO) collected from four depths (3, 5, 9, and 12 cm) and on faunal composition. Two treatments (Shelled Nets and Net Controls) were used to alter the topography from simple mud to a mussel shell crumble and were compared to un-manipulated Control areas. Sediment granulometry and organic matter content analyses alongside biological traits analysis of the fauna were also conducted.

Differences were observed in porewater nutrient concentrations between the Control and both netted treatments at 5 cm depth only; the species diversity and abundance were also different in the netted treatments compared to the Controls, although no difference between the two manipulated treatments were observed. The changes in faunal composition were attributed solely to the altered topography and the observed nutrient changes were attributed to the faunal alteration rather than the topographical manipulation.