Sedimentation, nutrients and metal loading to coastal environments are increasing, associated with urbanization and global warming, hence there is a growing need to predict ecological responses to such change. Using a regression technique we predicted how maximum abundance of 20 macrobenthic taxa and 22 functional traits separately and interactively responded to these key stressors. The abundance of most taxa declined in response to sedimentation and metal loading while a unimodal response was often associated with nutrient loading. Optimum abundances for both taxa and traits occurred at relatively low stressor levels, highlighting the vulnerability of estuaries to increasing stressor loads. Individual taxa were more susceptible to stress than traits, suggesting that functional traits may be less sensitive for detecting changes in ecosystem health. Multiplicative effects were more common than additive interactions. The observed sensitivity of most taxa to increasing sedimentation and metal loading and the documented interaction effects between multiple stressors have important implications for understanding and managing the ecological consequences of eutrophication, sedimentation and contaminants on coastal ecosystems.
The semi-enclosed nature of the Red Sea (20.2°N-38.5°N) makes it a natural laboratory to study the influence of environmental gradients on microbial communities. This study investigates the composition and structure of microbial prokaryotes and eukaryotes using molecular methods, targeting ribosomal RNA genes across different regions and seasons. The interaction between spatial and temporal scales results in different scenarios of turbulence and nutrient conditions allowing for testing of ecological theory that categorizes the response of the plankton community to these variations. The prokaryotic reads are mainly comprised of Cyanobacteria and Proteobacteria (Alpha and Gamma), with eukaryotic reads dominated by Dinophyceae and Syndiniophyceae. Periodic increases in the proportion of Mamiellophyceae and Bacillariophyceae reads were associated with alterations in the physical oceanography leading to nutrient increases either through the influx of Gulf of Aden Intermediate Water (south in the fall) or through water column mixing processes (north in the spring). We observed that in general dissimilarity amongst microbial communities increased when nutrient concentrations were higher, whereas richness (observed OTUs) was higher in scenarios of higher turbulence. Maximum abundance models showed the differential responses of dominant taxa to temperature giving an indication how taxa will respond as waters become warmer and more oligotrophic.
The diversity of coral reef and soft sediment ecosystems in the Red Sea has to date received limited scientific attention. This study investigates changes in the community composition of both reef and macrobenthic communities along a cross shelf gradient. Coral reef assemblages differed significantly in species composition and structure with location and depth. Inner shelf reefs harbored less abundant and less diverse coral assemblages with higher percentage macroalgae cover. Nutrient availability and distance from the shoreline were significantly related to changes in coral composition and structure. This study also observed a clear inshore offshore pattern for soft sediment communities. In contrast to the coral reef patterns the highest diversity and abundance of soft sediment communities were recorded at the inshore sites, which were characterized by a higher number of opportunistic polychaete species and bivalves indicative of mild disturbance. Sediment grain size and nutrient enrichment were important variables explaining the variability. This study aims to contribute to our understanding of ecosystem processes and biodiversity in the Red Sea region in an area that also has the potential to provide insight into pressing topics, such as the capacity of reef systems and benthic macrofaunal organisms to adapt to global climate change.
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