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Keywords:

  • Soft-bottom macrozoobenthos;
  • taxonomic structure;
  • taxonomic sufficiency

Abstract

In marine macrobenthos studies the identification of organisms at species level is the best entry to ecological and biological information about the animals. An accurate identification requires excellent conservation of the organisms, reliable fauna description, experts and lengthy work in the laboratory. The aim of this work is to test taxonomic sufficiency (TS) in two deliberately selected different case studies to understand whether and how the taxonomic complexity of a benthic assemblage influences the results of TS and where it works better. The first benthic settlement was collected in an area characterized by homogeneous depth and grain size composition (case study A) around an off-shore gas platform, while the second one was collected along a coast-wide transect in an area with human pressure limited to fishing activities (case study B). Univariate and multivariate statistical analysis was used to assess differences in the taxonomic structure of benthic assemblages and to test TS on the two different datasets. TS seems to work in both sites, from species to higher taxonomic levels, and the family taxonomic level appears the best compromise for taxonomic resolution when an accurate identification is not achievable. The application of TS does not indicate a significant difference between the two datasets and appears therefore to be a valid instrument to analyse and describe the structure of benthic settlements in the case of taxonomically complex communities.