Sewage-induced disturbance on polychaetes inhabiting intertidal mussel beds of Brachidontes rodriguezii off Mar del Plata (SW Atlantic, Argentina).
Keywords:polychaetes, intertidal, mussel beds, organic pollution, sewage, spatial and before-after summer season distribution, SW Atlantic
Continuous and short-term disturbances are produced on intertidal Brachidontes rodriguezii mussel beds by the sewage outfall of Mar del Plata, SW Atlantic. The effects on the associated polychaetes living on and between mussels were investigated, in both the spatial and short-term temporal scales. Multivariate methods show that the polychaete fauna was influenced by tidal level, total amount of sediment accumulated between mussels, distance from the sewage outfall, organic carbon of interstitial sediments, and sewage volume before and after the summer season. Environmental variables in the water column fitted with a spatial and temporal organic gradient. Capitella ‘capitata’ sp. showed typical opportunistic behaviour in relation to organic enrichment, as did Neanthes succinea, both being numerically dominant near the sewage discharge. Cirratulus sp., Caulleriella alata, and Boccardia polybranchia were common at intermediate distances from the outfall. Syllis prolixa, S. gracilis, and Protoariciella uncinata reached their highest abundance at intermediate stations and were characteristic of the control site. Close to the outfall mussel density and dominance is low, and opportunist polychaetes successfully colonize organically enriched interstitial sediments. At intermediate distances from the outfall sediments retained by mussels reach their maximum values, and density of polychaetes is also high. The control station is characterized by monolayered mussel beds and very low diversity of polychaetes. Opportunistic polychaetes increase in response to short-term increases of sewage discharge during the summer season (November-March).
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