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Keywords:

  • Biodiversity;
  • ecosystem functioning;
  • North Sea;
  • ridge-and-runnels beach;
  • zonation

Abstract

Lately, across-shore zonation has been found to be more important in structuring the nematode community of a tropical macrotidal sandy beach than microhabitat heterogeneity. To evaluate whether this zonation pattern applies to a temperate beach, a macrotidal ridge-and-runnels sandy beach in the North Sea was studied. We investigated whether a similar zonation occurs in sandbar and runnel microhabitats, and whether the runnels harbour a different community from the subtidal. Our results indicate that nematode communities from runnel and sandbar habitats are significantly different. In addition, horizontal zonation patterns for nematode communities differ between both habitats. Nematode assemblages from sandbars are divided to lower, middle and upper beach while upper and middle runnels cluster together. The subtidal and upper runnels showed dissimilar nematode assemblages, although runnels showed the same dominant species (Daptonema normandicum), which increases its abundance towards the upper runnels. This study illustrates the importance of microhabitat heterogeneity, which resulted in different zonation patterns across the sandy beach examined. The divergent zonation between sandbars and runnels in the macrotidal temperate sandy beach, compared with the pattern observed for a subtropical sandy beach with similar morphodynamics, indicates that generalizations about nematode distribution patterns should be made with caution.