This study tested the extent to which spatial differences in the benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages of a temperate microtidal estuary were ‘explained’ by the enduring (biophysical) vs non-enduring (water and sediment quality) environmental attributes of a diverse range of habitats, and thus the potential of those environmental surrogates to support faunal prediction. Species composition differed significantly among habitats in each season, with the greatest differences occurring in winter and spring and the least in summer. The pattern of habitat differences, as defined by their enduring environmental characteristics, was significantly and well matched with that in the fauna in each season. In contrast, significant matches between the non-enduring environmental and faunal data were only detected in winter and/or spring, and to a lesser extent. Field validation of the faunal prediction capacity of the biophysical surrogate framework at various ‘test’ sites throughout the estuary showed good agreement between the actual vs predicted key species. These findings demonstrate that enduring environmental criteria, which can be readily measured from mapped data, provide a better and more cost-effective surrogate for explaining spatial differences in the invertebrate fauna of this system than non-enduring criteria, and are thus a promising basis for faunal prediction. The approaches developed in this study are also readily adapted to any estuary worldwide.
Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science – Elsevier
Published: Oct 15, 2017
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