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Influence of the local abiotic environment, weather and regional nutrient loading on macrobenthic invertebrate feeding groups in a shallow brackish water ecosystem

Author(s): Veber Triin | Kotta Jonne | Lauringson Velda | Kotta Ilmar

Journal: Oceanologia
ISSN 0078-3234

Volume: 51;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 541;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Baltic | Benthic invertebrate functions | Interactive effects | Nutrient load | Weather

This study evaluated the extent to which depth, sediment type, exposure to waves and coastal slope inclination modulate the relationships between regional nutrient loading, weather patterns and the species composition and dominance structure of macrobenthic invertebrate feeding groups in a brackish water ecosystem of the Baltic Sea. Irrespective of feeding function, the species composition and dominance structure of benthic invertebrate communities were determined by local abiotic variables such as exposure, depth and sediment type. Regional weather variables (average southerly winds, salinity, water temperature, ice conditions) either separately or interactively contributed to the variability of benthic invertebrates. Nutrient loading had significant effects on benthic invertebrates only in interactions with local abiotic or regional weather variables. Herbivores, deposit feeders and suspension feeders exhibited a stronger response to the studied environmental variables than carnivores. All this suggests that (1) the dynamic coastal habitats studied in this work are not very sensitive to shifts in nutrient loading and (2) local abiotic conditions and weather patterns largely define the observed biotic patterns. We believe that the benthic invertebrate time series will only be a better reflection of the nutrient loading signal if more years covering extreme events are included.