Diversity and temporal fluctuations of epiphytes and sessile invertebrates on the rhizomes Posidonia oceanica in a seagrass meadow off Tunisia

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Abstract

The aim of this work is to study the temporal dynamics of rhizome epiphytes and sessile animals living on the rhizomes of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica in the east of Tunisia. Surveys were conducted in October 2009, and in January, April and August 2010 on a fringing reef located in Chebba. Rhizomes were sampled by SCUBA diving at three stations. Samples were examined with a microscope to estimate the cover of macroinvertebrate and macroalgal organisms on the top 10 cm of each rhizome. Results revealed a high diversity of epiphytes on P. oceanica rhizomes with a dominance of red and brown algae, ascidians, and bryozoans. Distinct temporal changes were observed in Oued Lafrann, with a high January cover (winter period) for all groups. These winter increases can be attributed to: (i) the low phenological parameters of P. oceanica in winter that reduce the effects of shading, (ii) life cycles of the epiphytes and invertebrates, (iii) water motion and (iv) grazing.

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