Spatial and temporal characteristics of benthic invertebrate communities at Culbin Sands lagoon, Moray Firth, NE Scotland, and impacts of the disturbance of cockle harvesting


  • Vanda Mariyam Mendonça Marine Science and Fisheries Centre, Ministry of Fisheries
  • David George Raffaelli Department of Environment, University of York
  • Peter Boyle Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen
  • Steve Hoskins Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen



benthic invertebrates, Arenicola marina, Cerastoderma edule, Spionidae, Culbin Sands, recruitment, cockle harvesting


In the present study, Culbin Sands lagoon, a protected site in NE Scotland, was surveyed every 2 to 4 weeks during a three-year period (1994-1996) to study benthic invertebrate communities. Beds of Mytilus edulis covered 18000 m2. 53 macroinfaunal species were identified outside these areas. The most conspicuous were: the lugworm Arenicola marina (mean up to 55 casts m-2); and bivalves Cerastoderma edule (mean up to 158 ind. m-2) and Macoma balthica (mean up to 79 ind. m-2) after settlement. The standing stock ranged from 20 to 32 g AFDW m-2 yr-1 respectively from more exposed to more sheltered areas. Most species showed a clear recruitment peak in autumn, but others (e.g. Capitella capitata, and Spionidae) displayed several peaks in a year. Communities were also compared between the sampling sites before and after an incidental disturbance caused by cockle Cerastoderma edule harvesting, which took place in June 1995. One site showed –0.7% variation in the total standing stock, but +22% for smaller-cockles, as larger filter-feeding cockles were removed therefore enhancing their own larval settlement. Polychaete Spionidae populations also increased after larger cockles were removed. The polychaete Arenicola marina population returned to its normal activities just after the dramatic disturbance of the sediment.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Vanda Mariyam Mendonça, Marine Science and Fisheries Centre, Ministry of Fisheries

Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR / CIMAR), University of Algarve, Portugal.


Allen, J.A. and J.J. Moore. – 1987. Invertebrate macrofauna as potential indicators of sandy beach instability. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 24:109-125. doi:10.1016/0272-7714(87)90008-4

Ankar, S. and R. Elmgreen. – 1976. The benthic macro- and meiofauna of the Asko-Landsort area (northern Baltic proper). A stratified random sampling survey. Contrib. Asko Lab., 11: 1-115.

Asmus, H. – 1987. Secondary production of an intertidal mussel bed community related to its storage and turnover compartments. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 39: 251-266. doi:10.3354/meps039251

Bachelet, G., M. Desprez, J.P. Ducrotoy, J. Guillou, P.J. Labourg., H. Ribarczk, P.G. Sauriau and M. Glemarec. – 1992. The role of intraspecific competition in regulating recruitment in the cockle Cerastoderma edule (L.). Ann. Inst. Oceanogr., 68(1): 75-87.

Beukema, J.J., K. Essink, H. Michaelis and L. Zwarts. – 1993. Year to year variability in the biomass of macrobenthic animals on tidal flats of the Wadden Sea - how predictable is this food source for birds. Neth. J. Sea Res., 31(4): 319-330. doi:10.1016/0077-7579(93)90051-S

Bonsdorff, E., A. Norkko and E. Sandberg. – 1995. Structuring zoobenthos: the importance of predation, cropping and physical disturbance. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 192: 125-144. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(95)00067-2

Brey, T. – 1991. The relative significance of biological and physical disturbance: an example from intertidal and subtidal sandy bottom communities. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 33: 339-360. doi:10.1016/0272-7714(91)90062-G

Brey, T., H. Rumohr and S. Ankar. – 1988. Energy content of macrobenthic invertebrates: general conversion factors from weight to energy. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 117: 271-278. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(88)90062-7

Cardoso, P.G., M.A. Pardal, A.I. Lillebo, S.M. Ferreira, D.G. Raffaelli and J.C. Marques. – 2004a. Dynamic changes in seagrass assemblages under euthrophication and implications for recovery. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 302: 233-248. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2003.10.014

Cardoso, P.G., M.A. Pardal, D.G. Raffaelli, A. Baeta and J.C. Marques. – 2004b. Macroinvertebrate response to different species of macroalgal mats and the role of disturbance history. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 308: 207-220. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2004.02.018

Chambers, M.R. and H. Milne. – 1975. The production of Macoma balthica (L.) in the Ythan estuary. Estuar. Coast. Shelf. Sci., 3: 443-455.

Chesney, E.J. and K. R. Tenore. – 1985. Effects of predation and disturbance on the population growth of the polychaete Capitella capitata (type 1). Mar. Biol., 85: 77-82. doi:10.1007/BF00396417

Cummins, K.W. and J.C. Wuycheck. – 1971. Calorific equivalents for investigations in ecological energetics. Int. Ver. Theor. Angew. Limnol. Verh., 18: 1-158.

Desprez, M., H. Rybarczyb, J.G. Wilson, J.P. Ducrotoy, F. Sueur, R. Olivesi and B. El Kaim. – 1992. Biological impact of eutrophication in the Bay of Somme and the induction and impact of anoxia. Neth. J. Sea Res., 30: 149-159. doi:10.1016/0077-7579(92)90054-I

Diaz, R.J. and R. Rosenberg. – 1995. Marine benthic hypoxia: a review of its ecological effects and the behavioural responses of the benthic macrofauna. Oceanogr. Mar. Biol. Annu. Rev., 33: 245-303.

Ertman, S.C. and P.A. Jumars. – 1988. Effects of bivalve siphonal currents on the settlement of inert particles and larvae. J. Mar. Res., 46: 797-813.

Evans, S. – 1982. Production, predation and food niche segregation in a marine shallow soft bottom community. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 10: 147-157. doi:10.3354/meps010147

Flach, E.C. – 1992. Disturbance of benthic infauna by sediment reworking of the Arenicola marina. Neth. J. Sea Res., 30: 81-87. doi:10.1016/0077-7579(92)90048-J

Flach, E.C. and W. Debrwin. – 1994. Does the activity of cockles Cersatoderma edule and lugworms Arenicola marina make Corophium volutator more vulnerable to eoibenthic predators? J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 182(2): 265-285. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(94)90056-6

Guillou, J., G. Bachelet and M. Glemarec. – 1992. Effects of temperature fluctuations and recruitment in the cockle Cerastoderma edule. Ann. Inst. Oceanogr. 68(1): 65-74.

Guillou, J. – 1994. Post-larval and juvenile mortality in a population of the edible cockle Cerastoderma edule (L.) from northern Brittany. Neth. J. Sea Res., 33(1): 103-111. doi:10.1016/0077-7579(94)90055-8

Hayward, P.J. and J.S. Ryland. – 1990. The marine fauna of British Isles and Northwest Europe. Vol. I and II. Clarendon Press. Oxford, UK.

Holme, N.A. and A.D. McIntyre. – 1984. Methods for the study of marine benthos. Blackwell, Oxford.

Kamermans, P. – 1994. Similarity in food source and timing of feeding in deposit feeding and suspension feeding bivalves. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 104(1-2): 278-285.

KCS. – 2001. Multivariate statistical package, MVSP. Version 3.1. User’s Manual. Kovanch Computing Services (KCS), Wales.

Lin, J.D. and A.H. Hines. – 1994. Effects of suspended food availability on the feeding mode and burial depth of the Balthic clam Macoma balthica. Oikos, 69(1): 28-36. doi:10.2307/3545280

McNeill, S. and J.H. Lawton. – 1970. Annual production and respiration in animal populations. Nature, 225: 472-474. doi:10.1038/225472a0

Mendonça, V.M. – 1997. Predator-prey interactions in a sandy shore system in the Moray Firth, NE Scotland. Ph. D. thesis, Univ. Aberdeen.

Mendonça, V.M., D.G. Raffaelli, P.R. Boyle and C. Emes. – 2007a. The ecological role of overwintering fish in the food web of the Culbin Sands lagoon ecosystem, NE Scotland: Identifying major trophic links and testing effects of fish Pomatoschistus microps (Pallas) on benthic invertebrates. Sci. Mar., 71(4): 649-660.

Mendonça, V.M., D.G. Raffaelli and P.R. Boyle. – 2007b. Interactions between shorebirds and benthic invertebrates at Culbin Sands lagoon, NE Scotland: Effects of avian predation on their prey community density and structure. Sci. Mar., 71(3): 579-591.

M.I.D.A.S. II. 1993. Mapping Information Database and Acquisition System. Mobile field receiver, version 2.1. Steanne Software Development Ltd, Cheshire.

Milne, H. and G.M. Dunnet. – 1972. Standing crop, productivity and trophic relations of the fauna of the Ythan estuary. In: R.S.K. Barnes. and J. Green (eds), The estuarine environment, pp. 88-106. Appl. Sc. Pub., England.

Modin, J. and L Pihl. – 1996. Small-scale distribution of juvenile plaice and flounder in relation to predatory shrimp in a shallow Swedish bay. J. Fish Biol., 49(6): 1070-1085. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.1996.tb01779.x

Moller, P. and R. Rosenberg. – 1982. Recruitment, abundance and production of Mya arenaria and Cardium edule in marine shallow waters, western Sweden. Ophelia, 22: 33-55.

Persson, L.E. – 1982. Temporal and spatial variation in coastal macrobenthic community structure, Hano Bay (Southern Baltic). J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 68: 277-293. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(83)90058-8

Piersma, T., A. Dekinga, J. A. van Gils, B. Achterkamp and G. H. Visser. – 2003. Cost-benefit analysis of mollusc-eating in a shorebird. I. Foraging and processing costs estimated by the doubly labelled water method. J. Exp. Biol., 206: 3361–3368. doi:10.1242/jeb.00545

Raffaelli, D.G. and P.R. Boyle. – 1986. The intertidal macrofauna of Nigg Bay. Proc. R. Soc. Edinb., 91B: 113-141.

Raffaelli, D., A. Conacher, H. MacLachlan and C. Emes. – 1989. The role of epibenthic crustacean predators in an estuarine food web. Estuar. Coast. Shelf Sci., 28: 149-60. doi:10.1016/0272-7714(89)90062-0

Raffaelli, D.G. and S.J. Hawkins. – 1996. Intertidal Ecology. Chapman and Hall, London.

Rumohr, H., T. Brey and S. Ankar. – 1987. A compilation of biometric conversion factors for benthic invertebrates of the Baltic Sea. Baltic Biol., 9: 1-56.

Smith, J.S. – 1986. The coast of the Moray Firth. Proc. R. Soc. Edinb., 91B: 1-12.

Sokal, R.R. and F.J. Rohlf. – 1984. Biometry. 2nd. W. H. Freeman and Co, London.

van Gils, J.A., B. Spaans, A. Dekinga and T. Piersma. – 2006a. Foraging in a tidally structured environment by red knots (Calidris canutus): ideal, but not free. Ecology, 87: 1189–1202. doi:10.1890/0012-9658(2006)87[1189:FIATSE]2.0.CO;2

van Gils, J.A., T. Piersma, A. Dekinga, B. Spaans and C. Kraan. – 2006b. Shellfish dredging pushes a flexible avian top predator out of a marine protected area. PLoS Biol., 4(12): 376. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0040376

Warwick, R.M. and K.R. Clarke. – 1993. Increased variability as a symptom of stress in marine communities. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol., 122: 215-226. doi:10.1016/0022-0981(93)90098-9




How to Cite

Mariyam Mendonça V, Raffaelli DG, Boyle P, Hoskins S. Spatial and temporal characteristics of benthic invertebrate communities at Culbin Sands lagoon, Moray Firth, NE Scotland, and impacts of the disturbance of cockle harvesting. scimar [Internet]. 2008Jun.30 [cited 2021Mar.7];72(2):265-78. Available from: