Temporal and spatial macrofaunal community changes along a salinity gradient in seagrass meadows of Akkeshi-ko estuary and Akkeshi Bay, northern Japan
Temporal and spatial variation of the macrofaunal community was investigated in seagrass meadows in Akkeshi-ko estuary and coastal area of Akkeshi Bay, northern Japan. We specifically addressed the question of how the salinity gradient in seagrass meadows affects the species richness, abundance and similarity of faunal groups classified based on the degree of association with the seagrasses, i.e. highly motile species that drift in the water column among seagrass blades (drift-fauna, DF group) and less motile species that are tightly associated with seagrass substrates ( s eagrass-associated fauna, SA group). A total of 70 species were collected semi-quantitatively using an epibenthic sledge, among which more than one third of the species were captured in all areas, and a quarter of species only in the marine area. Significant spatial variation in species richness, as well as a positive relationship between salinity and species richness was found for most sampling occasions and for both functional groups. Whereas, relationship between salinity and abundance of macrofauna was not clear although significant time and site interactions were found for both functional groups. Patterns of similarity of assemblages varied between the functional groups: clear differences by sampling sites were discerned for DF group but not for SA group. These results provided evidence that the macrofaunal community structures in seagrass beds varied with the salinity gradient, but the pattern differed with time and between functional groups, possibly due to the effect of biotic and abiotic factors that also changed with salinity.