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See detailEffects of an experimental resource pulse on the macrofaunal assemblage inhabiting seagrass macrophytodetritus
Remy, François ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg

in Belgian Journal of Zoology (in press)

Physical disturbances and resource pulses are major structuring drivers of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The accumulations of exported dead leaves from the Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L ... [more ▼]

Physical disturbances and resource pulses are major structuring drivers of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The accumulations of exported dead leaves from the Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile are ephemeral and highly dynamic detrital habitats offering food sources and shelter for vagile macrofauna community. These habitats are frequently subject to wind and storms which can add “new” detrital material to previous accumulations; these can be defined as resource pulses and could potentially impact the associated macrofauna. This study assesses the impact of an experimental resource pulse on the macrofauna associated with exported P. oceanica litter accumulations. The experimental design consisted of two pulse treatments (the addition of dead leaves with and without the associated fauna), and two controls (one procedural, and one total control), where the added material was left underwater for 14 days. Invertebrates then present in the sampled detritus were all identified and counted. Our data suggest that the responses of these invertebrates to resource pulses present intermediate characteristics between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems responses. Inputting a moderate amount of dead P. oceanica leaves into experimental mesocosms had a non-negligible impact and rapidly affected the macrofauna community. Specialist detritivores species were boosted while herbivore/detritivore species dramatically decreased. Predators also showed a modest but significant density increase, demonstrating the fast propagation of the pulse response throughout the entire community and through several trophic levels. Strict hypoxia-tolerant species were also only observed in the treated mesocosms, indicating the strong influence of resource pulses on physico-chemical conditions occurring inside litter accumulations. [less ▲]

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See detailReconstitution des paléoenvironnements et des activités humaines à partir de l’étude de sédiments prélevés dans le Cap Corse (Corse, France)
Fagel, Nathalie ULg; Fontaine, François ULg; Pleuger, Elisa ULg et al

in Ghilardi, Mathieu (Ed.) La géoarchéologie des îles de Méditerranée (in press)

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See detailIsotopic half-life and enrichment factor in two species of European freshwater fish larvae: an experimental approach
Latli, Adrien; Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Dujardin, Nelson et al

in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry (2017), 31(8), 685-692

RATIONALE: Stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen are valuable tools for field ecologists to use to analyse animal diets. However, the application of these tools requires knowledge of the tissue ... [more ▼]

RATIONALE: Stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen are valuable tools for field ecologists to use to analyse animal diets. However, the application of these tools requires knowledge of the tissue enrichment factor (TEF) and half-life (HL). We experimentally compared TEF and HL in two freshwater fish larvae. We hypothesised that chub had a better growth/tissue replacement ratio than roach, due to the use of a food closer to their natural diet. METHODS: We determined the isotopic HL, the TEF and the contribution of growth or metabolic tissue replacement to dynamic isotopic incorporation. After yolk sac resorption, larvae were fed for 5 weeks with prey similar to their natural diet (Artemia nauplii) up to the isotopic equilibrium followed by Chironomid larvae. Stable isotope measurements were carried out using a continuous flow isotope ratio mass spectrometer coupled to an elemental analyser. RESULTS: Changes in isotopic composition strongly followed the predictions of exponential growth and time-dependent models. The isotopic HL varied between 8.2 and 12.6 days and the TEF of nitrogen and carbon ranged from 1.7 to 2.1‰ and from –0.9 to 1.2 ‰, respectively. The incorporation of dietary 13C was due more to the production of new tissue (between 56 and 79%) than to the metabolic process. Chub allocated more energy to growth than roach and the Chironomidae diet contributed more to the consumers’ growth than the Artemia diet. CONCLUSIONS: Metabolic rates seemed lower for chub than for roach, especially when they were fed with Chironomidae. A Chironomidae-based diet would be more profitable to chub, and the high associated growth rate could increase the development of the fish larvae. The HL and TEF were in the range of those reported in the literature. These results will be helpful for field-based studies, because they can help to increase the accuracy of models. [less ▲]

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See detailA meta-analysis of isotopic compositions of North Sea marine mammals
Damseaux, France ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Das, Krishna ULg

Conference (2017, March 03)

For over a decade, the North Sea has been undergoing significant changes due to global changes and overfishing. We conducted meta-analyses of previously published data on marine mammals sampled in the ... [more ▼]

For over a decade, the North Sea has been undergoing significant changes due to global changes and overfishing. We conducted meta-analyses of previously published data on marine mammals sampled in the North Sea to test the competition for food sources and spatial variations. The overall objective of this study was to assess the potential trophic changes of the grey seal, the harbour seal and the harbour porpoise. Data included δ13C and δ15N values measured in blood cells and muscles from the three species. SIBER, a trophic niche overlap quantification approach, highlighted potential competition between marine mammal species. The ellipse drawn for harbour seal data showed the highest δ15N values, reflecting its trophic position at the top of the food web. But the ellipse overlapping between the harbour seal and the grey seal of Germany was very important, showing a potential strong competition for food sources may be due to the overfishing. The harbour porpoise displayed a lower trophic position and a wide range of δ13C and δ15N values compared to harbour seal and grey seal as seen from its extended ellipse size. This may be due to a more opportunistic behaviour following the decline of some fish population in the North Sea. Surprisingly a group of grey seals sampled in Scotland present a very small ellipse size, presumably more selective in their prey choice, and showed the lowest δ15N values. Caution should be taken before comparing the trophic position of the groups of grey seals as the baseline differed between the two sampling areas. Low nitrates concentrations, higher latitudes, colder temperatures, deeper waters and rocky soils of the Scotland’s coasts of the North Sea cause a stratification phenomenon of the water column explaining the lower δ15N baseline in this area and so the spatial variation between these two groups of grey seals living in the North Sea. [less ▲]

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See detailIncreased sea ice cover disrupts food web structure in coastal Antarctica
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dubois, Philippe; Eleaume, Marc et al

Conference (2017, March 03)

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice ... [more ▼]

Antarctica currently undergoes strong and contrasted impacts linked with climate change. While the West Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, resulting in sea ice cover decrease, the sea ice cover of East Antarctica unexpectedly tends to increase, possibly in relation with changes in atmospheric circulation. Sea ice is a major environmental driver in Antarctica, and changes in sea ice cover are likely to influence benthic food web structure through several processes (modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling, disruption of benthic production and/or modifications of benthic community structure and therefore resource availability for benthic consumers). To date, regions where sea ice cover is decreasing have received more attention than regions where it is increasing. Here, on the other hand, we studied shallow (0-20 m) benthic food web structure on the coasts of Petrels Island (Adélie Land, East Antarctica) during an event of unusually high spatial and temporal (two successive austral summers without seasonal break-up) sea ice cover. Using time-tested integrative trophic markers (stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur) and state-of-the-art data analysis tools (bayesian ecological models), we studied the structure of the food web associated to benthic macroinvertebrates communities. In total, 28 macroinvertebrate taxa spanning most present animal groups (sponges, sea anemones, nemerteans, nematods, sipunculids, sessile and mobile polychaetes, gastropods, bivalves, pycnogonids, crustaceans, sea stars, sea urchins, brittle stars and sea cucumbers) and functional guilds (grazers, deposit feeders, filter feeders, predators, scavengers) were investigated. Our results indicate that the absence of seasonal sea ice breakup deeply influences coastal benthic food webs in Antarctica. We recorded marked differences from literature data, both in terms of horizontal (i.e. primary producers and resources supporting animal populations) and vertical (i.e. trophic level of the studied consumers) structure of the food web. Overall, sympagic (sea-ice associated) algae dominated the diet of many important consumers, and the trophic levels of invertebrates were low, suggesting omnivore consumers relied less on predation and/or scavenging than in normal environmental conditions. Surprisingly, few animals seemed to feed on the extremely abundant benthic biofilm, whose exceptional development was also presumably linked with the peculiar sea ice conditions. Interpretation of data was complicated by the peculiar ecophysiological features of Antarctic invertebrates, whose very low metabolic rates could be associated to low tissue turnover. However, comparison of data obtained in the austral summers of 2013-2014 (first year without seasonal breakup) and 2014-2015 (second year without seasonal breakup) clearly showed that the observed trends were linked with actual temporal changes in invertebrate feeding habits rather than with other potential ecological drivers. Our results provide insights about how Antarctic benthic consumers, which have evolved in an extremely stable environment, might adapt their feeding habits in response to sudden man-driven changes in environmental conditions and trophic resource availability. They also show that local and/or global trends of sea ice increase in Antarctica could cause strong changes in food web structure and therefore impact zoobenthic communities. This reinforces the view that, no matter their overall direction (i.e. increase or decrease), fluctuations in sea ice cover are likely to influence Antarctic benthic ecosystems' structure and functioning. [less ▲]

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See detailLinking pollutant exposure of humpback whales breeding in the Indian Ocean to their feeding habits and feeding areas off Antarctica
Das, Krishna ULg; Malarvannan, Govindan; Dirtu, Alin et al

in Environmental Pollution (2017), 220

Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, breeding off la Reunion Island (Indian Ocean) undergo large-scale seasonal migrations between summer feeding grounds near Antarctica and their reproductive winter ... [more ▼]

Humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, breeding off la Reunion Island (Indian Ocean) undergo large-scale seasonal migrations between summer feeding grounds near Antarctica and their reproductive winter grounds in the Indian Ocean. The main scope of the current study was to investigate chemical exposure of humpback whales breeding in the Indian Ocean by providing the first published data on this breeding stock concerning persistent organic pollutants (POPs), namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), DDT and its metabolites (DDTs), chlordane compounds (CHLs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and methoxylated PBDEs (MeO-PBDEs). Analyses of stable isotopes δ13C and δ15N in skin resulted in further insight in their feeding ecology, which was in agreement with a diet focused mainly on low trophic level prey species, such as krill from Antarctica. POPs were measured in all humpback whales in the order of HCB > DDTs > CHLs > HCHs > PCBs > PBDEs > MeO-BDEs. HCB (median: 24 ng.g-1 lw) and DDTs (median: 7.7 ng.g-1 lw) were the predominant compounds in all whale biopsies. Among DDT compounds, p,p’-DDE was the major organohalogenated pollutant, reflecting its long-term accumulation in humpback whales. Significantly lower concentrations of HCB and DDTs were found in females than in males (p<0.001). Other compounds were similar between the two genders (p>0.05). Differences in the HCB and DDTs suggested gender-specific transfer of some compounds to the offspring. POP concentrations were lower than previously reported results for humpback whales sampled near the Antarctic Peninsula, suggesting potential influence of their nutritional status and may indicate different exposures of the whales according to their feeding zones. Further investigations are required to assess exposure of southern humpback whales throughout their feeding zones. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of food type on respiration, fractionation and turnover of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in the marine amphipod Gammarus aequicauda (Martynov, 1931).
Remy, François ULg; Darchambeau, François ULg; Melchior, Aurélie et al

in Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology (2017), 486

This study experimentally determined the impact of food source type on turnover rate and trophic enrichment factors (TEFs or ∆) of δ13C and δ15N, as well as on respiration rate, in captive populations of ... [more ▼]

This study experimentally determined the impact of food source type on turnover rate and trophic enrichment factors (TEFs or ∆) of δ13C and δ15N, as well as on respiration rate, in captive populations of the marine amphipod Gammarus aequicauda. Gammarus aequicauda (318 individuals) were fed ad libitum with three food sources animal, algae, and dead Posidonia oceanica leaves (also called “litter”), varying in palatability, digestibility, nutritional qualities and isotopic compositions, for between four and six weeks in a controlled feeding experiment. The resulting death rate was lower for the amphipods fed with animal treatment (30.9%) than for individuals fed with algal (65.9%) or litter treatment (64.4%), indicating a better fitness of the individuals fed with the animal food source. Respiration rates also differed highly among the treatments. Animal treatment showed higher respiration rates than algal and litter treatments, potentially due to the toxicity of the algae and the very low nutritional quality of the litter. Amphipods fed with these treatments might have entered in a “low activity state” to cope with these unsuitable food sources, inducing low respiration rates. Due to the very low assimilation and toxicity of the algae source, turnover rate for δ13C was impossible to determine. Turnover rate for δ13C was much faster (half-life = 12.55 days) for amphipods fed with the animal food source than for amphipods fed with litter (half-life = 51.62 days), showing the faster assimilation of the most nutritionally optimal food sources by G. aequicauda. Turnover for δ15N was impossible to determine because the amphipods were already at isotopic equilibrium at the beginning of the experiment. Despite the detritus feeder status of Gammarus aequicauda, TEFs for the animal treatments were in accordance with values generally found for carnivorous organisms (∆13C = 0.9 ± 0.7‰; ∆15N = 2.9 ± 0.6‰). TEFs for the litter treatment were in accordance with values generally corresponding to detritivorous organisms (∆13C = 1.2‰; ∆15N = 1.0 ± 0.4‰). SIAR mixing model outputs obtained with these new TEF values were more constrained and coherent than outputs obtained with general literature TEFs. This study thus demonstrated the non-negligible impact of the food source on Gammarus aequicauda physiological status, fitness and turnover rates, but also on TEFs—highlighting the importance of TEF experimental calculations for every potential food source of a given organism to ensure more robust isotopic data interpretation. [less ▲]

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See detailInhibition of ethylene synthesis reduces salt-tolerance in tomato wild relative species Solanum chilense
Gharbi, E.; Martínez, J.-P.; Benahmed, H. et al

in Journal of Plant Physiology (2017), 210

Exposure to salinity induces a burst in ethylene synthesis in the wild tomato halophyte plant species Solanum chilense. In order to gain information on the role of ethylene in salt adaptation, plants of ... [more ▼]

Exposure to salinity induces a burst in ethylene synthesis in the wild tomato halophyte plant species Solanum chilense. In order to gain information on the role of ethylene in salt adaptation, plants of Solanum chilense (accession LA4107) and of cultivated glycophyte Solanum lycopersicum (cv. Ailsa Craig) were cultivated for 7 days in nutrient solution containing 0 or 125 mM NaCl in the presence or absence of the inhibitor of ethylene synthesis (aminovinylglycine (AVG) 2 μM). Salt-induced ethylene synthesis in S. chilense occurred concomitantly with an increase in stomatal conductance, an efficient osmotic adjustment and the maintenance of carbon isotope discrimination value (Δ13C). In contrast, in S. lycopersicum, salt stress decreased stomatal conductance and Δ13C values while osmotic potential remained higher than in S. chilense. Inhibition of stress-induced ethylene synthesis by AVG decreased stomatal conductance and Δ13C in S. chilense and compromised osmotic adjustment. Solanum chilense behaved as an includer and accumulated high amounts of Na in the shoot but remained able to maintain K nutrition in the presence of NaCl. This species however did not stimulate the expression of genes coding for high-affinity K transport but genes coding for ethylene responsive factor ERF5 and JREF1 were constitutively more expressed in S. chilense than in S. lycopersicum. It is concluded that ethylene plays a key role in salt tolerance of S. chilense. © 2016 [less ▲]

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See detailExtreme intra-clutch egg size dimorphism is not coupled with corresponding differences in antioxidant capacity and stable isotopes between eggs
Poisbleau, Maud; Beaulieu, Michaël; Dehnhard, Nina et al

in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A : Molecular & Integrative Physiology (2017), 205

Oviparous females need to allocate resources optimally to their eggs in order to maximize their fitness. Among these resources, dietary antioxidants, acquired by females and transferred to the eggs during ... [more ▼]

Oviparous females need to allocate resources optimally to their eggs in order to maximize their fitness. Among these resources, dietary antioxidants, acquired by females and transferred to the eggs during egg formation, can greatly affect the development and survival of the embryo and chick. In crested penguins, incubation starts after the second and last egg is laid and, as opposed to many other bird species, this egg hatches first, thereby enhancing the survival of the chick. Here, we assessed whether antioxidant and isotopic composition could underlie these differences between eggs within clutches of southern rockhopper penguins (Eudyptes chrysocome chrysocome). The second-laid egg had higher total antioxidant capacity than the first-laid egg, although this was not due to higher antioxidant concentration but to its higher mass. This suggests that resources are allocated by females at a constant rate in both eggs within clutches. Accordingly, we found a strong correlation for isotopic compositions between eggs suggesting that resources were allocated similarly to each egg within the clutch. Overall, we found little evidence for a significant role of antioxidant and isotopic compositions to explain differences in terms of embryo/chick development between eggs in crested penguins. However, since our results suggest a constant rate of antioxidant transfer from females to eggs, limiting the mass of the first-laid egg might represent a strategy for females to spare antioxidant defences and preserve self-maintenance. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic ecology of Southern Ocean sea stars inferred from stable isotopes ratios of C and N
Le Bourg, Baptiste ULg; Blanchard, Alice; Danis, Bruno et al

Conference (2016, December 17)

The Southern Ocean undergoes strong and contrasted impacts of climate change. Increasing seawater temperature and sea ice cover reduction in Western Antarctic Peninsula and associated regions will likely ... [more ▼]

The Southern Ocean undergoes strong and contrasted impacts of climate change. Increasing seawater temperature and sea ice cover reduction in Western Antarctic Peninsula and associated regions will likely impact food web structure and function. Sea stars (Echinoderms: Asteroidea) are an important group of the Southern Ocean benthos. They typically have highly variable feeding habits and are potentially more resistant than other organisms to temperature changes. Consequently, they will likely be impacted by modifications of the food web rather than by direct warming. Investigating their trophic ecology is therefore necessary to infer how climate change will impact them. In this context, the aim of this study was to use stable isotopes ratios of C, N and S to infer sea stars trophic ecology. During austral summers 2006 and 2009, sea stars were sampled in Subantarctic and Antarctic locations, with most of the samples coming from South Shetland Islands and South Georgia. The isotopic niche (proxy of the trophic niche) associated to each sea star population was explored through SIBER (Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses in R) metrics. Stable isotope ratios of sea stars were clearly different between South Shetland Islands and South Georgia. Sea stars of South Shetland Islands had smaller isotopic niches than sea stars of South Georgia. The overlap between the isotopic niches of sea star species was also important in South Shetland Islands, while isotopic niches of South Georgia were well separated. Difference of niche width and overlap between the two regions may be the result of different environmental conditions. In South Shetland Islands, sea star species may exploit a common benthic community relying on organic matter released during sea ice summer melting. In contrast, South Georgia is an oligotrophic environment with no sea ice. As resources are more limited, a higher trophic segregation between sea stars may appear to limit competition. Ultimately, this project highlighted the importance of sea ice in the trophic ecology of Antarctic sea stars. Our results suggest that future reduction of sea ice extent in Western Antarctica may have deleterious effect on sea star populations. [less ▲]

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See detailHead shape disparity of the cod icefishes Trematominae (Notothenioidei, Teleostei)
Frederich, Bruno ULg; Heindler, Franz M.; Dettai, Agnès et al

Poster (2016, December 16)

The suborder Notothenioidei (Teleostei) has undergone a remarkable adaptive radiation in the Southern Ocean. Within this suborder, the subfamily Trematominae is endemic to Antarctic waters and represents ... [more ▼]

The suborder Notothenioidei (Teleostei) has undergone a remarkable adaptive radiation in the Southern Ocean. Within this suborder, the subfamily Trematominae is endemic to Antarctic waters and represents a dominant component of the shelf fish fauna. After recent advances in molecular phylogenetics, 14 species of Trematomus are currently recognized (including Pagothenia and Cryothenia spp.) comprising both considerable morphological and ecological diversity. Here, we aim to illustrate the main axes of shape variation in Trematomus and explore the evolution of their morphology. A dataset of 96 specimens representing 10 species of Trematomus from the collection of the Natural History Museum of Paris was assembled, and landmark-based geometric morphometrics was applied to quantify head shape disparity. Regular regression analysis revealed significant interspecific allometry while a low percentage of shape variation was explained by size (R2 = 0.11; P < 0.001). Main shape variation across species was explored using a principal component (PC) analysis on shape variables. Two groups diverged along PC1: (1) T. bernacchii, T. hansoni, T. pennellii and T. tokarevi have short cephalic profiles with larger cheeks (lowest values along PC1); and (2) T. lepidorhinus, T. eulepidotus and T. newnesi show lengthened cephalic profiles with larger eyes (highest values along PC1). Trematomus scotti differed from all other species mainly along PC3 indicating more elongated cheeks. Phenogram based on Procrustes shape distances will be compared to molecular phylogenetic trees and morphometric data will be mapped onto phylogenetic trees in order to illustrate the mode of phenotypic diversification of Trematomus during evolution. [less ▲]

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See detailWho would want to live in there? A history of Posidonia oceanica detritus accumulations, the associated invertebrate community, and its food web…
Remy, François ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Darchambeau, François ULg et al

Conference (2016, December 16)

Most seagrasses are rarely consumed directly by herbivore organisms. The "detrital pathway" thus represents a potentially important way of transfer of the seagrasses production to the coastal food webs ... [more ▼]

Most seagrasses are rarely consumed directly by herbivore organisms. The "detrital pathway" thus represents a potentially important way of transfer of the seagrasses production to the coastal food webs. The case of Posidonia oceanica is particularly interesting since up to 90% of its foliar primary production may constitute extensive and highly dynamic exported litter accumulations. Preliminary studies concerning these detritus accumulations suggest that an abundant community of vagile macro invertebrates (size > 500μm) lives inside them. We characterized for the first time this community in an exhaustive way (multi-site, seasonal and multi-year study), we linked the observed density and diversity variations to environmental parameters, but also described the trophic web these invertebrates compose. We sampled an abundant (up to 5000 organisms/m²) community composed of 115 species. We showed that crustaceans were massively dominant, followed by annelids and mollusks, and that one single amphipod species Gammarella fucicola represented from 20 to 85% of the whole sampled community. Observed variations appeared to be mostly linked to litter oxygen water concentration in a very species specific way. Most species were linked to no measured environmental parameter at all, but several dominant species were demonstrated (observation and in situ experimentation) to be linked positively or negatively to litter oxygen concentration. The described food web was composed of more than 3 trophic levels, indicating the presence of a trophic web composed of primary consumers/detritivore species, of omnivore species, but also of first and second order predators, each level occupying a distinct isotopic niche. From a specific point of view, we highlighted several different feeding preferences, with SIAR mixing model runs indicating that some species feed mostly on detrital material, other species feed on a mixture of detrital and algal material, other species feed on both animal and vegetal material and finally predator species feed exclusively on animal material. The fact that P. oceanica detritus constituted a non-negligible food source for some dominant species confirmed the importance of this macrofauna community as a key transfer link of seagrass organic matter from P. oceanica to the coastal food webs. [less ▲]

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See detailFeeding ecology of metamorphic and paedomorphic palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus) in Larzac
Didaskalou, Emilie; Lejeune, Benjamin ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

Poster (2016, December 16)

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See detailExploitation of coastal fish communities by harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena during nursing periods in German Baltic waters.
Pinzone, Marianna ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Gallus, Anja et al

Conference (2016, December 11)

Baltic sub-populations of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena meet in in Southwestern waters in Spring when females reach the coastal areas for calving and nursing. In Autumn they separate again for ... [more ▼]

Baltic sub-populations of harbour porpoises Phocoena phocoena meet in in Southwestern waters in Spring when females reach the coastal areas for calving and nursing. In Autumn they separate again for reproduction : the Belt sea populations westwards in the Kattegat/Skarregat region, the Baltic proper population northwards in the central basin. The increased number of juvenile and newborn strandings along the German Baltic coasts give evidence for a possible existence of local calving grounds in this area. Calving and nursing habitats are the most important areas for management purposes. This project aimed to describe inhabitancy and diet of females and calves along the German Baltic coast, in order to achieve effective conservation measures. Nitrogen, carbon and, for the first time, sulphur stable isotopes (δ13C, δ15N and δ34S) were analysed in coastal species of fish and invertebrates in spring, autumn and winter 2015/2016 and in four different areas, to assess for seasonal and geographical variation of porpoises habitat use. The structure of ecological niches was inferred within and between communities using the SIBER model, and was compared to results from stomach content analysis. N, C and S values of fish and invertebrates strongly varied, seasonally and geographically, as a consequence of environmental factors characteristic of each sampling area. Additionally, each species presented large isotopic variability, suggesting possible intraspecific dietary specialisations. Females δ13C and δ34S signatures integrated both open-waters and coastal feeding, while juveniles presented a more coastal distribution. The absence of difference in δ15N values between age classes confirmed persistence of milk assimilation from the mothers. Niches structures and overlaps and stomach content analysis suggested gobies (Potamoschistus spp and Neogobius spp in particular), crabs and small coastal fish (ex. three-spined stickleback) as the main preys of juveniles. The integration of all three stable isotopes together permitted to well delineate even the highly dynamic food web of the Baltic German waters, confirming the use of sulphur isotopes in marine ecological studies. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessing edge-effects in Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows: A multidisciplinary approach
Lapeyra, Jon; Abadie, Arnaud; Lejeune, Pierre et al

Conference (2016, December)

Structural boundaries in ecosystems play an important role both in the context of seascape architecture, ecological processes and biodiversity. The Mediterranean Seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile is ... [more ▼]

Structural boundaries in ecosystems play an important role both in the context of seascape architecture, ecological processes and biodiversity. The Mediterranean Seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile is considered an ecosystem engineer species, forming habitats of great ecological value and providing many ecosystem services. This study aims to (1) determine whether there are differences between seagrass-sand corridors edges and the adjacent continuous meadow, and (2) investigate whether anthropogenic pressures can cause disturbances in the measured parameters along the edges and the meadow. We have developed a multidisciplinary approach combining plant physiology, faunal canopy community studies and seagrass structural parameters characterization. We performed in situ chlorophyll fluorescence measurements using a Pulse Amplitude Modulated (Diving-PAM) fluorometry in order to assess the photosynthetic rate of the shoots. Vagile macrofauna of the leaf stratum was sampled by a hand-towed net, and the major taxonomic groups were sorted, counted, and identified. Meadow’s biometric measurements and the epiphytic biomass were also determined. Regarding edge-meadow matrix, results have shown highest differences on matrix structural parameters such as shoot density and shoot type proportions. Shoot density was found to decrease in edges considerably. We found c.a to 60 % plagiotropic shoots on edges while in continuous meadow orthotropics were predominant (up to 90 %). Howerver vagile-fauna population densities and diversity did not differ significantly among stations studied, neither by sites. Photosynthetic rate and leaf surface values also did not show changes between edges and continuous meadow. However, results did show that plagiotropic shoots had higher photosynthetic rate than orthotropics, and also that epiphyte abundance sorted out to be much higher (up to 54 %) on edges. [less ▲]

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See detailEcoNum, a research unit devoted to marine environment monitoring
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Batigny, Antoine; Georges, Nadège et al

Conference (2016, October 27)

The monitoring of coastal environments remains a research domain of great interest and concern. Coastal ecosystems are threatened by natural and human-induced stressors and are, as transitional ... [more ▼]

The monitoring of coastal environments remains a research domain of great interest and concern. Coastal ecosystems are threatened by natural and human-induced stressors and are, as transitional environments, particularly sensitive to disturbances. EcoNum first research thematic revolves around hermatypic corals, calcifying organisms, and their adaptation potentials to environmental changes including by using original and patented chemostats. The studied organisms are grown and maintained in artificial mesocosms that simulate environmental conditions of a natural system. This infrastructure allows to perform long-term experiments, giving time to organisms to adapt to the tested conditions (e.g., increased temperature or lowered pH). Longer-term studies have demonstrated that many organisms are more resistant to environmental stressors than previously observed on the short-term. EcoNum also studies coastal plankton abundance and diversity. Plankton is particularly sensitive to physicochemical changes of water bodies. The classification and the enumeration of planktonic organisms require specialized tools in order to analyse time series of multiple samples. EcoNum has developed a software for the semi-automatic classification of planktonic organisms called Zoo/PhytoImage. This software has been used to study a 10-year time series of coastal Mediterranean zooplankton samples. The concomitant analysis of environmental parameters registered at high frequency with specific statistical tools such as the R package pastecs allows to understand the processes governing the changes observed in plankton assemblages. The use and the development of statistical tools in R (e.g., Zoo/Phytoimage, pastecs) is a priority of EcoNum to favour open access knowledge and reproductive sciences. EcoNum research topics also focus on coastal ecotoxicology. Chemicals, including trace elements, remain contaminants of concern, mainly in coastal environments that are the final sink of inland pollution sources. The chemical integrity of coastal ecosystems thus has to be accurately monitored. The partitioning of chemicals between their dissolved, particulate and sedimentary phases does not provide information on their bioavailability. EcoNum thus monitors coastal waters using bioindicator species such as seagrasses, mussels or sand worms. A global map of the contamination of the Mediterranean by trace elements has been drawn using seagrasses has bioindicator species. EcoNum also studies trace element ecology and toxicology. For instance, it has demonstrated the toxicity of copper on the coral Seriatopora hystrix and it's symbiont's photosynthetic processes, or its bioaccumulation and basipetal translocation towards rhizomes in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica as reserve nutrient for subsequent leaf growth. Finally, coastal vegetated systems are potential carbon thinks (or sources) in the global carbon cycle. Therefore, EcoNum studies the primary productivity of seagrass meadows, from the individual to the community, with measuring techniques as diverse as PAM-fluorometry or biomass production determination. To conclude, EcoNum is a research unit devoted to marine environment monitoring. It develops research thematics on major coastal communities such as coral reefs, seagrass beds or plankton assemblages and studies their natural dynamics and the effects of stressors on their global functioning. [less ▲]

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See detailA one year survey of seagrass primary productivity using the diving-PAM technique
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Abadie, Arnaud; Grosjean, Philippe et al

Poster (2016, October 18)

Marine magnoliophytes are major primary producers in coastal benthic habitats worldwide. They play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle (one of the more efficient blue carbon wells). Hence, it is ... [more ▼]

Marine magnoliophytes are major primary producers in coastal benthic habitats worldwide. They play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle (one of the more efficient blue carbon wells). Hence, it is necessary to characterise the eco-systemic services seagrass meadows provide. Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, the main Mediterranean seagrass species, has high foliar and belowground biomass production. Several methods have been used so far to measure its primary production (e.g., using incubation bells, optodes, biomass and elementary content measurements). A less used method relies on chlorophyll fluorescence measurements through the Pulse Amplitude Modulated (PAM) fluorometry method (Diving - PAM). In the framework of the STARECAPMED project, this study aimed to determine weekly to bimonthly over a one-year period the photosynthetic responses (Yield, relative Electron Transfer Rate, Rapid Light Curve) of P. oceanica. The survey was performed at 10m depth in a pristine meadow (Calvi, Corsica, France). To obtain reliable and comparable data, the protocol was standardized: measurements were performed on the convex middle part of the third leaf, at zenith, during shiny and calm weather days. Results showed that the plant displayed a well-marked seasonality. The mean ETR (μmol e- m-2 s-1 ) of the plant ranged from 2.17 in winter to 21.9 in summer and was linearly correlated throughout the year with the in situ irradiance (PAR irradiance taken perpendicularly to the surface, in the average leaf orientation). The ETR plateaus of the RLCs, ranging from 10.9 to 35.0, and their corresponding maximum PAR intensities evolved similarly. These results demonstrated both the adaptation and the seasonal plasticity of the meadow’s photosynthetic system. Overall the non-destructive PAM technique is a powerful and cost-effective tool to assess the primary productivity of seagrass meadows where other techniques (e.g. optodes) cannot be used and when direct sampling (e.g. biomass measurements) is not allowed. [less ▲]

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See detailDiversity, dynamics and trophic ecology of animal communities associated to Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile macrophytodetrital accumulation: synthesis of a ten year study
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg; Champenois, Willy ULg et al

Poster (2016, October 17)

In the Mediterranean, Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica, produces a huge quantity of detrital biomass. These macrophytodetritus may accumulate in shallow waters, forming litter accumulations colonised by ... [more ▼]

In the Mediterranean, Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica, produces a huge quantity of detrital biomass. These macrophytodetritus may accumulate in shallow waters, forming litter accumulations colonised by abundant, yet understudied, animal communities. These accumulations are especially foraged by juvenile and adult fishes. Here, we aim to synthesize results obtained over the last ten years regarding diversity, dynamics and trophic ecology of associated meio- and macrofauna. Accumulations are found throughout the year but important seasonal and short-term variability in composition, quantity and physico-chemical parameters inside the accumulation is observed. Accumulations are dominated by respiration (litter degradation), however, primary production occurs at exposed surfaces (epiphytic production). Meio- and macrofauna have distinct traits in comparison to adjacent habitats (seagrass meadows or epilithic algae communities). A physico-chemical gradient occurs inside accumulations which partially defines assemblage composition and distribution. Meiofauna, in particular harpacticoid copepods, is diverse, abundant and composed of species from seagrass meadows, water column and sediment. In contrast, macrofaunal assemblages are simplified compared to the ones occurring in the seagrass meadows and are dominated by amphipods. Litter accumulations display a lower macrofaunal diversity than do seagrass meadows, but a higher abundance and animal biomass. Meio- and macrofauna show a high trophic diversity, dominated by ingestion and assimilation of epiphytes (macroalgae and, probably, detrivorous microbiota). Moreover, direct or indirect assimilation of carbon originating from seagrass detritus is demonstrated for many species. Although diverse trophic niches were observed, the assemblage showed a simplified trophic web structure compared to the seagrass meadows. Detritivorous organisms dominate this assemblage and are more abundant in the litter than in the living meadows. Consequently, according to its abundance and the fact it consumes directly and indirectly seagrass material, fauna associated to litter accumulation may play a significant role in the degradation and transfer to higher trophic level of detrital seagrass carbon. [less ▲]

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See detailInvestigating the potential of Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson as a coastal carbon sink coupling marine habitat cartographies and in situ nondestructive sampling
Abadie, Arnaud ULg; Richir, Jonathan ULg; Pieraccini, Riccardo ULg et al

Poster (2016, October)

Seagrass meadows are major carbon sinks, trapping about 10% of the total CO2 sequestrated in the oceans. In the Mediterranean, a major focus has been made on the climax species Posidonia oceanica (L ... [more ▼]

Seagrass meadows are major carbon sinks, trapping about 10% of the total CO2 sequestrated in the oceans. In the Mediterranean, a major focus has been made on the climax species Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, while other species remained little studied. In the framework of the STARECAPMED project, we thus chose to study Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson, a pioneer species with a rapid turnover and an expected high stocking capacity. Furthermore, the area covered by that species has been largely underestimated. In order to fill these two knowledge gaps, we first mapped all seagrass habitats within a Mediterranean bay (Calvi, Corsica, France) using side scan images, aerial photographs and ground truths. This cartography was followed by seasonal in situ density measurements and non-destructive shoot sampling (leaf cutting). Samplings were performed at different depths (5 to 23 m depth) in 6 contrasted stations (small patchy meadows to continuous beds) in order to cover all the existing facies of the bay. Elementary contents (carbon, nitrogen and stable isotope ratios) were measured in laboratory. This first work shows that C. nodosa meadows in Calvi Bay cover an area of 0.498 km2. Carbon stocks of the leaves reached 0.25 tons in winter and 2.72 tons in summer. Their nitrogen contents showed a marked seasonality with a maximum value of 0.020 mgN.m-2 in July and a minimum value of 0.005 mgN.m-2 in March. Some modifications in the trophic conditions of the water column at several stations were put in an obvious through the N stable isotopes values, mostly during the summer period. The actual underestimation of the area covered by that species in Calvi Bay has been properly mapped thanks to side scan sonar techniques revealing, together with elementary content analysis, its importance in the carbon balance of coastal areas. [less ▲]

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See detailPhenology of farmed seaweed Kappaphycus alvarezii infestation by the parasitic epiphyte Polysiphonia sp. in Madagascar
Tsiresy, Gaëtan; Preux, Jérémy; Lavitra, Thierry et al

in Journal of Applied Phycology (2016), 28(5), 29032914

epiphytic filamentous algae (EFA) disease has appeared in many regions of Madagascar. This infestation has dramatic consequences for local farmers as it alters drastically farmed algal growth and has ... [more ▼]

epiphytic filamentous algae (EFA) disease has appeared in many regions of Madagascar. This infestation has dramatic consequences for local farmers as it alters drastically farmed algal growth and has caused farming activity to collapse in many places. The present study characterizes the structure and ultrastructure of the stages observed in the life cycle of Polysiphonia sp. and gives the results of a monitoring of 18 months made in three Kappaphycus alvarezii farming sites in the southwest of Madagascar. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was used to analyze the ultrastructure of the cortex in infested K. alvarezii. Five stages have been observed in the life cycle of Polysiphonia sp.: the infesting stage that is a small dark spot observed at the surface of K. alvarezii, the male gametophyte, the female gametophyte, the tetrasporocysts, and the undifferentiated stage where individuals show normal thalli without sexual differentiation. EFA infestation was never recorded in Sarodrano, but often in the two other monitored villages (Lambohara, Tampolove). Prevalence of infestation varied from 40 to 100 % and the rates of infestation from 42 to 78 epiphytes cm−2. Prevalence of infestation showed significant seasonal variation and a between-sites variation; the rates of infestation were not significantly different between sites and did not vary with the period. The ways of infestation between K. alvarezii individuals in an infested field and from infested to healthy fields are discussed at the light of the present results. [less ▲]

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