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Keywords:

  • Cymodocea nodosa;
  • decapods;
  • diversity;
  • patch sizes;
  • space – time variations;
  • Western Mediterranean Sea

Abstract

The decapod assemblages associated with two shallow meadows of Cymodocea nodosa, located in the same geographical area (Southern Spain) but on different substrates and with different patch size, have been analyzed. They display similar structure (diversity indices not significantly different), without a clear relation of richness and abundances to patch size, and with the same dominant species (the family Hippolytidae and, in particular, Hippolyte leptocerus are characteristic of this habitat). The composition of both crustacean assemblages is influenced by species that are common in neighbouring habitats. Therefore the connectivity among them is an important factor in the qualitative and quantitative structure of these decapod communities. Species richness appears to be higher than in Cymodocea meadows elsewhere in the Mediterranean and Atlantic at a similar depth, perhaps as a consequence of the biogeographical location and the high diversity and connectivity with surrounding biotopes. High evenness values are the result of the structure and location of these meadows, which are fragmented and interspersed with other biotopes (sandy and rocky bottoms), resulting in an ‘ecotone effect’. On the other hand, the structures of the decapod assemblages differ significantly according to sampling period. The abundance and species richness are both related to plant phenology and the dominant species present a positive correlation with the number of leaves per shoot. The maximum abundance of many species is coincident with the greatest seagrass development (spring – summer), which provides more resources (surface, biomass, protection, food). Therefore, seasonality is linked to plant life cycle, but also to the interrelationships and biology of the species, which are adapted and specialized to the environmental features of these shallow habitats.