Temporal and spatial zonation of macroepiphytes on Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile leaves in a meadow off Tunisia



The aim of this survey was to study the cover and the composition of macroepiphytic species on the leaves of Posidonia oceanica in the east of Tunisia. Surveys were conducted in December 2009 (winter period), March (spring period) and August 2010 (summer period) in a fringing reef located in Chebba. At each sampling date, 15 adult leaves were randomly collected and divided into basal and apical parts. The inner face of each part was examined with ocular glasses and microscope to estimate species cover by orthogonal projection. PERMANOVA and ANOSIM were used to test for differences of cover between sampling dates and leaf parts. SIMPER, cluster analysis, and PCA were used to ordinate species assemblages. Comparison of epiphytic cover along leaf blades showed significant differences for all groups, except cyanophycea, with high cover of hydrozoans and bryozoans in the basal part and high cover of algae in the apical part. The species composition and cover also vary with sampling date; minimum values were detected in December and the epiphytic community was composed of a few pioneer species, whereas maximum epiphytic cover values were registered in August, with the epiphytic community being composed of a more mature and more diverse community, termed ‘climax’. The main regulatory factors for this distribution are discussed.