Macrobenthic community structure over the continental margin of Crete (South Aegean Sea, NE Mediterranean)

TitleMacrobenthic community structure over the continental margin of Crete (South Aegean Sea, NE Mediterranean)
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsTselepides, A, Papadopoulou K-N, Podaras D, Plaiti W, Koutsoubas D
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Pages401 - 428

Macrobenthic faunal composition, abundance, biomass and diversity together with a suite of sedimentary environmental parameters were investigated on a seasonal basis in order to determine factors regulating faunal distribution over the oligotrophic continental margin of the island of Crete (South Aegean Sea, North Eastern Mediterranean). Macrofaunal species composition was similar to that of the western Mediterranean and the neighboring Atlantic having several common dominant species. Mean benthic biomass, abundance and diversity decreased with depth, with a major transition zone occurring at 540 m, beyond which values declined sharply. At comparable depths biomass and abundance values were considerably lower to those found in the Atlantic, high-lighting the extreme oligotrophy of the area. The continental margin of Crete was characterised by a high diversity upper continental shelf environment (dominated by surface deposit feeding polychaetes) and a very low diversity slope and deep-basin environment (dominated by carnivorous and filter feeding polychaetes). Classification and ordination analyses revealed the existence of four principle clusters divided by a faunal boundary between 200 and 540 m, as well as beyond 940 m depth. Significant correlations between macrofauna and sediment parameters led to the conclusion that besides depth, food availability (as manifested by the concentration of chloroplastic pigments) is the principle regulating factor in the system. Such being the case, the prevailing hydrographic features that structure the pelagic food web and are directly responsible for the propagation of organic matter to the benthos also affect its community structure. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.


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