THE EFFECTS OF CORAL REEF PROXIMITY ON THE SOFT-SEDIMENT MACROFAUNAL COMMUNITIES OF ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK, SOUTH AFRICA
Rogan Harmer and David Glassom
University of KwaZulu-Natal, School of Life Sciences

 

Abstract
There is a scarcity of data globally on the soft-sediment fauna of coral reef areas, and no previous studies have documented this assemblage in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. There is particularly limited knowledge on how the proximity of coral reefs influences the diversity and abundance of macrofauna inhabiting sub-tidal sandy areas, and what trophic linkages exist between sandy substrata and coral reefs. South Africa’s high wave energy coastline is well suited to the transportation of nutrients. The aims of this study were therefore to document the diversity, distribution and abundance of sub-tidal, soft-sediment benthic macrofauna in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and relate these to depth, sediment grain size, reef proximity and protective status. Using a diver operated, air-lift suction sampler, macrofauna were sampled at three distances from the shoreward side of three coral reefs in the reserve. Reefs were selected based on their size, orientation, and protective status. Fauna collected were identified to the lowest possible taxonomic level. Biomass estimates were calculated and sediment grain size determined. Preliminary results show contrasting patterns in abundance, diversity and biomass estimates of macrofauna with regards to reef proximity. This may be attributed to variations in the sediment grain size recorded between the coral reefs, the protective status of the coral reefs and/or their various depths. This is the first survey of this kind at iSimangaliso Wetland Park and cataloguing the diversity of soft-bottom macrofauna and identifying presence of ecological linkages between them and coral reefs will give valuable insight into the functioning of the marine reserve.
Presentation Topic
THE EFFECTS OF CORAL REEF PROXIMITY ON THE SOFT-SEDIMENT MACROFAUNAL COMMUNITIES OF ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK, SOUTH AFRICA
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Email Rogan Harmer