ABSTRACT: This study tested the hypothesis that the small-scale topography caused by ripples in sediment would affect benthic macrofaunal assemblages. Ripple marks were measured and macrofauna and sediments were sampled near to and far from subtidal rocky reefs at two sites. Ripples were significantly wider and taller close to than far from reefs. Sediment grain-size was significantly different between crests and troughs. Microtopography clearly influenced the structure of the benthic macrofaunal assemblages in three of the four locations (and 8 of the 12 sites) examined. Numbers of taxa of the benthic macrofaunal assemblages and almost all individual taxa analysed showed significant greater abundances in troughs than in crests. The results strongly support the model that benthic macrofauna are affected by locally varying hydrodynamic environments produced by ripple-beds. These, in turn, were influenced by their proximity to a reef. Models about passive transport of the macrofauna by water-movement and active movements of the fauna are discussed. Furthermore, it appeared that there was a relationship between spatial variability of the macrofaunal assemblages and size of ripples. It is suggested that microtopography should be considered in experimental designs when patterns of distribution of benthic organisms are being evaluated.
Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.