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Title: The role of physical-chemical factors in structuring subtidal marine and estuarine benthos
Authors: Kendall, David R.
Keywords: Benthos
Aquatic animals--Effect of water pollution on
Estuarine environment
Publisher: Environmental Laboratory (U.S.)
U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station.
Series/Report no.: Technical Report;EL-83-2
Abstract: This report represents a critical review of the literature on subtidal estuarine and coastal marine benthic habitats and the important measurable physical and chemical factors that influence community structure and production. It evaluates qualitative and quantitative trends in benthic community structure linked to physical and chemical environmental factors; it does not elaborate on the effects of important biological interactions such as competition and predation. There are four generally recognized benthic habitat types within the subtidal estuarine and coastal marine environment. They are: (1) unconsolidated soft bottoms, (2) submerged aquatic vegetation beds, (3) rock/hard bottoms, and (4) reefs. Measurable habitat parameters known to influence the qualitative and quantitative structure of subtidal benthic communities associated with one or all of the four broad habitat types are: (1) salinity, (2) temperature, (3) other water quality descriptors (dissolved oxygen, turbidity, pollution), (4) substrate quality, (5) vegetation quality, (6) current velocity, and (7) depth. There are many qualitative trends apparent in the literature concerning macroinvertebrate-substrate-water quality relationships. These are discussed, contrasted, and compared, with exceptions noted from different geographical areas of the east, west, and gulf coasts. The literature generally shows that quantitative correlations are usually obscured due to (1) natural biological variability, (2) the integrated influences of substrate and water physical-chemical conditions, and (3) biological interactions including competition and predation. Some site-specific quantitative relationships have been observed, but they are exceptions generally limited to intensively studied benthic species of commercial, recreational, or ecological importance, such as the hard clam. Detailed quantitative studies of the effects of multiple environmental factors on low-interest benthic infaunas are severely lacking or rare. A review of physical-chemical parameters suggests that it is extremely difficult to isolate the effects on the benthos of one habitat descriptor such as substrate quality at the present state of the art. Much has been written concerning species-specific animal-substrate relationships, but many species are generalists and defy classification based on substrate quality alone. Therefore, the inherent complexity of environmental factors acting in concert to structure benthic communities makes it difficult to determine qualitative changes in benthic communities occurring within any given habitat type. Qualitative changes in benthic community structure may alter the trophic support value of the benthic habitat to bottom feeding fishes, but these changes cannot be accurately quantified using present substrate and water quality data and existing information on benthic invertebrate-substrate quality relationships.
Appears in Collections:Technical Report

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