Scientia Marina, Vol 73, No 2 (2009)

The effect of sewage discharge on Melarhaphe neritoides (Gastropoda: Littorinidae) population dynamics

Joana Cabral-Oliveira
IMAR - Institute of Marine Research, Department of Zoology, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Paulo Maranhão
IMAR - Institute of Marine Research, Department of Zoology, University of Coimbra, Portugal

GIRM – Marine Resources Research Group, School of Maritime Technology. Portugal

Miguel Ângelo Pardal
IMAR - Institute of Marine Research, Department of Zoology, University of Coimbra, Portugal


The discharges of sewage effluent treatment plants has a major impact on coastal communities. In our study area (western coast of Portugal) Melarhaphe neritoides (L. 1758) is the dominant high-shore gastropod. Two populations of M. neritoides were studied in order to understand the impact of sewage discharges on intertidal communities: one population in an impacted area and the other in a similar but unimpacted area (reference site). Environmental data and abundance, biomass, population structure and annual growth production of M. neritoides were estimated in the two areas. The results showed that M. neritoides density is higher in the impacted area as a result of massive settlement. The sewage discharge increases the nutrient concentrations in the water, which causes more microalgae to grow on the rocky surfaces. This higher availability of food may promote recruitment. However, we found high mortality in the juveniles in the impacted area, which affected density values on the upper shore levels (where we found the adults) of both areas. Moreover, the adults were bigger in the unimpacted area, which suggests that individuals grow more or live longer in this area.


Melarhaphe neritoides; abundance; biomass; secondary production; sewage; nutrient enrichment; rocky shore

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