Diversity of Polychaeta (Annelida) and other worm taxa in mangrove habitats of Darwin Harbour, northern Australia

School of Science, Faculty of Education, Health and Science, Charles Darwin University, 0909, Darwin, NT, Australia
Journal of Sea Research (Impact Factor: 1.86). 07/2007; 59. DOI: 10.1016/j.seares.2007.06.002

ABSTRACT In this paper data on the diversity, distribution and abundance of polychaetes and other worm taxa in the mangroves of Darwin Harbour, northern Australia, are presented and compared with those of other tropical mangrove areas. Aspects of the feeding guild ecology and the effects of disturbance on mangrove worms are also examined. Data were collected over a period of four years, across four mangrove assemblages. Samples were obtained using three sampling techniques: 1 m × 1 m quadrat searches, epifauna searches and a new infaunal sampling technique, the anoxic mat. A total of 76 species (68 polychaetes, 1 oligochaete, 1 echiuran, 3 sipunculans, 2 nemerteans, 1 turbellarian) were recorded from the four main mangrove assemblages. Of these, 30 species are widespread, occurring in mangrove and non-mangrove habitats throughout the Indo-west Pacific. Only seven species (all polychaetes) appear to be restricted to the mangroves of Darwin Harbour and northern Australia. Polychaetes are predominant, comprising 80–96% of all worms sampled, with three families—Nereididae, Capitellidae and Spionidae—accounting for 46% of all species. The highest diversity and abundance was recorded in the soft, unconsolidated substrates of the seaward assemblage, with diversity and abundance decreasing progressively in the landward assemblages. Most of the worm fauna was infaunal (70%), but the intensive sampling regime revealed a hitherto unknown significant percentage of epifaunal species (18%) and species occurring as both infauna and epifauna (12%). Univariate analyses showed annual and seasonal differences in worm species richness and abundance—presumably associated with the intensity of the monsoon and recruitment success. The worm fauna differed between mangrove assemblages but the proportion of species in each feeding guild was relatively consistent across the four assemblages studied. Herbivores were the most species-rich and abundant, followed by carnivores and sub-surface deposit feeders. Multivariate analyses showed that the species composition of urbanised mangroves differed from that of undisturbed sites, with surface deposit feeders more numerous in urbanised habitats. Overall, the findings demonstrate a dynamic spatial and temporal variation in diversity and abundance, and provide insight on the range of microhabitats in which mangrove worms occur and their response to anthropogenic disturbance. © 2007 Published by Elsevier B.V.

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