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Differential responses of benthic microbes and meiofauna to fish-farm disturbance in coastal sediments

Differential responses of benthic microbes and meiofauna to fish-farm disturbance in coastal sediments

Environmental Pollution 112(3): 427-434

Bacterial and meiofaunal abundance and biomass and their response to the disturbance induced by fish-farm biodeposition were investigated from March to October 1997 on a monthly basis at two stations of the Gaeta Gulf (Tyrrhenian Sea, Mediterranean Sea). The biopolymeric fraction of the organic matter was characterized by high concentrations which was similar at both fish-farming-impacted and control stations. Similarly, bacteria accounted for a small fraction of the biopolymeric organic carbon ([<]1%), while the contribution due to auto-fluorescent cell biomass (i.e. prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells displaying auto-fluorescence) to the total biopolymeric carbon was quantitatively negligible ([<]0.1%). Benthic bacteria appear to be sensitive to organic enrichment as their abundance increased significantly beneath the cage, whilst numbers of meiofauna was lower than in the control. Changes occurred also in terms of individual nematode biomass that increased as result of the biodeposition. A particularly useful tool appeared to be represented by the ratio of benthic auto-fluorescent cells to bacterial abundance, bacteria to meiofaunal biomass and auto-fluorescent cells to meiofauna biomass. All these parameters described well the impact due to biodeposition on the benthic environment as their ratios displayed significantly higher values in farm sediments, but recovered rapidly (15 days) to values observed in the control (i.e. undisturbed conditions) immediately after cage removal. Changes observed in the present study high-light that the increased organic loading determined a shift of the relative contribution of the different benthic components to the total biopolymeric carbon, so that in highly impacted systems total benthic biomass becomes increasingly dominated by microbial components.

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Accession: 003407228

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PMID: 11291449

DOI: 10.1016/s0269-7491(00)00141-x

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