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Keywords:

  • Anthropogenic disturbance;
  • macrofauna;
  • mangrove;
  • Red Sea;
  • spatial distribution;
  • Sudan;
  • trophic diversity

Abstract

Mangroves along the Sudanese Red Sea coast are under constant anthropogenic pressure. To better understand the influence of mangrove clearance on the intertidal benthic community, we investigated the composition, biodiversity and standing stock of the macrofauna communities at high-, mid- and low-water levels in three contrasting habitats: a bare sand flat, a cleared mangrove and an intact mangrove. In addition, a community-wide metric approach based on taxon-specific carbon and nitrogen isotope values was used to compare the trophic structure between the three habitats. The habitats differed significantly in terms of macrofaunal standing stock, community composition and trophic structure. The high- and mid-water levels of the intact mangroves showed a distinct macrofaunal community characterized by elevated densities and biomass, largely governed by higher decapod and gastropod abundances. Diversity was similar for cleared and intact mangroves, but much lower for the bare sand flat. Community-wide metrics indicated highest trophic diversity and community niche breadth in the intact mangroves. Differences between the cleared and intact mangroves can be partly attributed to differences in sediment characteristics resulting from mangrove clearance. These results suggest a significant impact of mangrove clearance on the macrofaunal community and trophic structure. This study calls for further investigations and management actions to protect and restore these habitats, and ensure the survival of this ecologically valuable coastal ecosystem.