Studies on the ecology and taxonomy of nematodes of Saldanha Bay, South Africa
Hendricks, Martin Gustav John
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Few studies of shallow water marine nematodes have been conducted around South Africa, and none from the west coast. Here, I analyse the composition of nematode communities from six stations along a 3 km transect in Saldanha Bay during both summer and winter, in order to describe the communities present and to explore the effects of sediment composition and heavy and trace metal concentrations on community structure. In order to put the local data into a global context, these data are analysed together with some consolidated data from elsewhere and patterns of richness and composition (at the level of genus and species) examined The transect in Saldanha Bay extended from below a mussel raft at one end into the bay, and six cores (35.7mm diameter) were collected at each station. All nematodes were counted and 100 randomly identified from each core. A total of 136 nominal species, 117 genera and 36 families were identified from both summer and winter stations. Nematode abundance was highest at stations under the mussel raft, which were characterized by high mud content and high concentrations of trace and heavy metals: diversity was comparatively low and the assemblage was dominated by a few, non-selective deposit feeders (especially Sabatieria). Abundance decreased, but diversity increased, with an increase in distance from the mussel raft, which was coupled with an increase in the particle size of sediments and a significant reduction in metal concentrations. There were three dominant (Comesomatidae, Desmodoridae and Linhomoeidae, present in 96%, 85% and 83% of samples, respectively) and four subdominant families (Chromadoridae, Microlaimidae and Xyalidae, all in 79% of samples) that were largely responsible for determining the community structure across the bay. Multivariate analysis of the data using PRIMER indicated that copper was the single variable that best accounted for the structure of the communities (70.1%), and the best 2-variable combinations were copper and organic nitrogen (70.3%), followed by copper, organic nitrogen and mean grain size (69.7%). Abundance was higher at all stations in winter than summer, and the results of the PERMANOVA test on station and season indicated that the variation in between Station- Season accounted for 27% of the differences in community structure. Although these results should be treated with caution owing to limited temporal sampling, they are similar to those obtained elsewhere in the world and indicate that nematodes can be used to study anthropogenic impacts in a local context. Despite the fact that Saldanha Bay has been subjected to industrial activities for more than thirty years, estimates of species richness for Saldanha Bay were surprisingly high: S= 136; ICE = 150; CFE= 173. As too were estimates of generic richness (S= 117; ICE = 131; CFE= 149), which were the fourth most rich of those global sites compared from similar depths. Incorporation of these data into a global dataset revealed an absence of any clear latitudinal pattern in the distribution of richness (genera or families), and there was no obvious geographic structure to global communities, based on the available data. These results suggest that genera and families are poor proxies for species (at the evolutionary level, but not at the ecological level) and they support the idea that everything is everywhere. Comments on ways that nematode research can be advanced in South Africa are made.