Scientia Marina, Vol 81, No 2 (2017)

Habitat structure and zonation patterns of northwestern Mediterranean shoreline strands

Simone Mariani
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC - Departament d’Ecologia, Facultat de Biologia, Universitat de Barcelona, Spain

Susana Pinedo
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC, Spain

Marc Terradas
Departamento de Ciencias del Mar y Biología Aplicada, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Alicante, Spain

Maria Elena Cefalì
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC, Spain

Eglantine Chappuis
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC, Spain

Enric Ballesteros
Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes, CSIC, Spain


We studied the habitat structure (macrofaunal assemblages and bottom types) and zonation patterns of 29 unvegetated shoreline strands along the 900-km coast of Catalonia (NW Mediterranean Sea). Organisms were sampled with grabs, pitfall traps, sticky traps, clam nets and spades to ensure capture of the different proportions of macrofaunal assemblages from the supra-, medio- and infralittoral levels. We collected 211 taxa: 194 animals and 17 algae. The most abundant and dominant organisms collected with van Veen grabs were Nematoda, Oligochaeta and Collembola at the supralittoral level; the polychaetes Saccocirrus spp. and Pisione remota, the amphipod Corophium orientale, Nematoda, and Turbellaria at the mediolittoral level; and Nematoda at the upper infralittoral level. SIMPER analysis revealed great dissimilarity between the organisms inhabiting the supralittoral and the other littoral levels. Regarding the epifauna, the sticky traps used at the supralittoral level mainly collected Collembola, which were nearly absent in pitfall traps. The qualitative study performed with a clam net and a small spade revealed that Nematoda, Saccocirrus spp., Turbellaria, Nemertea and the polychaete P. remota were the most abundant animals at both the medio- and the infralittoral levels and no differences were found between these levels. Different qualitative sampling methodologies showed that in fine sediments the bivalves Donax trunculus and D. semistriatus determined more than 97% of dissimilarity from coarse-sand sites. Richness increased in protected sandy and cobble shores. Littoral level and bottom-type features were only to a certain extent valid indicators of specific biotic components for a specific habitat.


macrofauna; zonation patterns; littoral habitats; Catalonia; beach

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