The sandy beach meiofauna and free-living nematodes from De Panne (Belgium)
Beaches | ANE, Belgium | Marine organisms | Fauna | Nematoda [Nematodes] | Belgium, De Panne | Nematoda | Sandy soils | Meiobenthos
Despite their rather barren and arid appearance, European sandy beaches harbour a highly diverse fauna and flora and some of them are even highly productive. In contrast to tropical sandy beaches little is known about the structural and functional diversity of the different benthic components. This study aims to investigate the structural diversity of the meiobenthos, emphasizing on free-living marine nematodes on a Belgian sandy beach.The samples were collected on the sandy beach of De Panne in the swept prism, i.e. the zone between highest and lowest watermark, subjected to tidal inundation. The beach, situated before the nature reserve "Westhoek Reservaat", is a macrotidal, dissipative, little exposed beach with fine-grained sediment. Within the meiobenthos, 11 taxa were recognized. Free-living Nematoda were the dominant (75.8 %-97.1 %) metazoans in all the stations, mostly followed by Turbellaria. The meiobenthic densities increased towards the low water mark as a consequence of macroscaled physical gradients. A patchy distribution of meiobenthos is primarily caused by gradients on micro- scale. Within the nematodes a total of 87 species, belonging to 67 genera, were recognized. Multivariate and statistical techniques in combinations with indicator species analysis revealed nematode communities associated with dry sand (<i>Rhabditis</i> sp.1 and <i>Axonolaimus helgolandicus</i>), upper (<i>Trissonchulus</i> sp.1 and <i>Dichromadora hyalocheile</i>) and lower littoral (<i>Odonthophora phalarata, Odonthophora rectangular, Chaetonema riemanni</i> and <i>Cyartonema elegans</i>).