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Factors affecting meiofaunal colonization and assemblage structure in marine soft sediments Open Access

Descriptions

Other title
Subject/Keyword
Clams
Copepod
Bioturbation
Meiofauna
Colonization
Benthic
Nematode
Depth
Type of item
Thesis
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Boeckner, Matthew J.
Supervisor and department
Proctor, Heather (Biological Sciences)
Palmer, A. Rich (Biological Sciences)
Examining committee member and department
Shurin, Jonathan (Biological Sciences, University of British Columbia)
Vinebrooke, Rolf (Biological Sciences)
Douglas, Marianne (Earth and Atmospheric Sciences)
Department
Department of Biological Sciences
Specialization

Date accepted
2009-05-29T14:58:30Z
Graduation date
2009-11
Degree
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Doctoral
Abstract
Meiofauna are an abundant, diverse and important component of the marine biota, however, much of their ecology has been neglected. Despite their high densities, meiofaunal abundance is often patchy. Meiofauna present in high numbers at one site will often be less abundant in seemingly similar adjacent sites. What factors govern this variability? How readily do these animals colonize new patches? How do various biological and environmental factors affect meiofaunal colonization rate and resulting assemblage structure? The response of meiofauna to changes in abiotic factors, including sediment grain size, depth, exposure and distance from the ocean floor, was quite variable. Often one factor would affect certain taxa and not others. Even slight increases in depth resulted in drastic declines of harpacticoid copepods while nematodes were unaffected. Meiofauna were also fewer in sediments with large interstitial spaces. Some meiofauna were most abundant in sediments placed closer to the ocean floor. Other taxa colonized distant substrata as rapidly as they did substrate located closer to the ocean floor. This suggested differences between taxa in their rates of active dispersal. The effects of macrofauna on meiofauna have been debated. In particular, how do clams affect the colonization and assemblage structure of meiofauna? Certain characteristics of clams were isolated and evaluated: feeding behaviour, bioturbation rate/depth and metabolic byproducts. Clams that caused the greatest meiofauna declines were shallow burrowing deposit-feeders. Constant disturbance to the upper sediment by these clams was likely responsible for meiofaunal impact. Conversely, suspensionfeeding clams that passed quickly to deeper sediment and remained stationary had little impact on meiofauna. Finally, a survey of local marine nematodes added nine genera new to Canada and 24 genera new to British Columbia. A review was also compiled that shows nematodes and other meiofauna have been neglected for much of Canada. Although these small and abundant animals are quick to colonize even distant habitats they are quite sensitive to cues from the surrounding biotic and abiotic environment. This sensitivity combined with their ease of collection make meiofauna a valuable asset to any number of ecological investigations.
Language
English
DOI
doi:10.7939/R3TQ5RP0H
Rights
This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for the purpose of private, scholarly or scientific research. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
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