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See detailCharacteristics of the infestation of Seriatopora corals by the coral gall crab Hapalocarcinus marsupialis Stimpson, 1859 on the great reef of toliara, Madagascar
Terrana, Lucas; Caulier, Guillaume; Todinanahary, Gildas et al

in Symbiosis (2016), 69(2), 113-122

This study describes the association between the obligatory symbiont coral gall crab Hapalocarcinus marsupialis and its stony coral hosts Seriatopora sp .within the Great Reef of Toliara in Madagascar and ... [more ▼]

This study describes the association between the obligatory symbiont coral gall crab Hapalocarcinus marsupialis and its stony coral hosts Seriatopora sp .within the Great Reef of Toliara in Madagascar and attempts to dis- cuss their symbiotic status through comparison with previous studies. These corals are inhabited by crabs living in galls that can be categorised in four distinct morphological stages, where the first one corresponds to a small bud and the last one represents a completely closed gall surrounding the crab inside. Within the reef, 563 colonies of Seriatopora species were observed by scuba-diving at ten different stations: 37.8 % of them were infested by H. marsupialis , with a total of 763 galls, and with a majority of stage 4 galls. Galls are monopolised by females that can have different morphologies. Females store the sperm in two spermathecae and are fertilised when their morphology and size are similar to males and the gall is not closed. Histological observations coupled with scanning electronic microscopy analyses show that closed galls are made of an external living tissue, a mid skeletal layer and an internal living tissue. The internal living tissue includes polyps similar to the external tissue, some of them being sex- ually mature. Nitrogen and carbon isotopic signatures confirmed that these crabs are filter-feeders and do not feed on their host. This association perfectly highlights the difficul- ties to define the symbiotic status of a symbiont if one con- siders inflexible the three categories of symbiosis commonly defined. [less ▲]

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See detailEffects of fish predation on Posidonia oceanica amphipod assemblages
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Pérez-Perera, Amanda et al

in Marine Biology (2016), 163

Amphipod assemblages that inhabit Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are potentially relevant trophic resources for ichthyofauna. However, the effects of fish predation on amphipod assemblages in this ... [more ▼]

Amphipod assemblages that inhabit Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are potentially relevant trophic resources for ichthyofauna. However, the effects of fish predation on amphipod assemblages in this system have received little attention. To address this gap in knowledge, experimental manipulations of predation intensity (exclusion and inclusion cages) were conducted at two sites in a Mediterranean marine protected area, where different levels of fish predation were expected to occur. We found that in the absence of predatory fishes (exclusion cages), total amphipod density and biomass were higher than in uncaged areas and partially controlled cages. At the species level, Caprella acanthifera and Iphimedia minuta responded to caging with increased abundance, while in most cases different species did not exhibit differences in density or biomass between treatments. The presence of one enclosed labrid fish predator (inclusion cages) resulted in a lower density and biomass of Aora spinicornis and a lower biomass of Phtisica marina, although total amphipod density and biomass were unchanged. In the inclusion cages, a size-frequency analysis revealed that predators mainly targeted large A. spinicornis and Apherusa chiereghinii individuals. Our results suggest that predation by fish may be an important factor in controlling amphipod abundances and biomasses in P. oceanica meadows. Overall, amphipod community composition was not affected by exclusion or inclusion of fish predators. However, some significant effects at the species level point to more complex interactions between some amphipods and fish. [less ▲]

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See detailOntogenic variation and effect of collection procedure on leaf biomechanical properties of Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile
de los santos, Carmen; Vicencio, Barbara; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

in Marine Ecology (2016)

Leaf mechanical traits are important to understand how aquatic plants fracture and deform when subjected to abiotic (currents or waves) or biotic (herbivory attack) mechanical forces. The likely ... [more ▼]

Leaf mechanical traits are important to understand how aquatic plants fracture and deform when subjected to abiotic (currents or waves) or biotic (herbivory attack) mechanical forces. The likely occurrence of variation during leaf onto- geny in these traits may thus have implications for hydrodynamic performance and vulnerability to herbivory damage, and may be associated with changes in morphologic and chemical traits. Seagrasses, marine flowering plants, consist of shoot bundles holding several leaves with different developmental stages, in which outer older leaves protect inner younger leaves. In this study we examined the long-lived seagrass Posidonia oceanica to determine ontogenic variation in mechanical traits across leaf position within a shoot, representing different devel- opmental stages. Moreover, we investigated whether or not the collection proce- dure (classical uprooted shoot versus non-destructive shoot method: cutting the shoot without a portion of rhizome) and time span after collection influence mechanical measurements. Neither collection procedure nor time elapsed within 48 h of collection affected measurements of leaf biomechanical traits when sea- grass shoots were kept moist in dark cool conditions. Ontogenic variation in mechanical traits in P. oceanica leaves over intermediate and adult developmen- tal stages was observed: leaves weakened and lost stiffness with aging, while mid- aged leaves (the longest and thickest ones) were able to withstand higher break- ing forces. In addition, younger leaves had higher nitrogen content and lower fiber content than older leaves. The observed patterns may explain fine-scale within-shoot ecological processes of leaves at different developmental stages, such as leaf shedding and herbivory consumption in P. oceanica. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic ecology of the seagrass-inhabiting footballer demoiselle Chrysiptera annulata (Peters, 1855); comparison with three other reef-associated damselfishes
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Parmentier, Eric ULg et al

in Belgian Journal of Zoology (2016), 146(1), 21-32

Many damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are herbivorous or omnivorous with an important contribution of different kinds of algae in their diet. They display different levels of territoriality and farming ... [more ▼]

Many damselfishes (Pomacentridae) are herbivorous or omnivorous with an important contribution of different kinds of algae in their diet. They display different levels of territoriality and farming behavior, from almost non territorial to monoculture farmers. In addition, few species inhabit seagrass meadows but, presently, none can be considered as seagrass-eating specialists. The footballer demoiselle, Chrysiptera annulata, is found in the seagrass meadows on the reef flat of the Great Reef of Toliara (Madagascar, Mozambique Channel). Regarding this unusual habitat for pomacentrid, this study aimed to answer 3 questions: 1) What is the diet of C. annulata? 2) Do the resources supporting this diet include seagrass? 3) Does its trophic niche overlap those of other sympatric damselfishes (Pomacentrus trilineatus, Chrysiptera unimaculata and Plectroglyphidodon lacrymatus) living in close association with macrophytes or eating algae? Stomach content examination and stable isotope analysis showed that the footballer demoiselle is not a seagrass consumer but is an omnivorous/herbivorous species heavily relying on algal resources and small invertebrates. SIAR, a stable isotope mixing model, indicated it assimilated large amount of turf algae and various benthic or planktonic invertebrates in lower proportions. SIBER metrics pointed out that isotopic niche of the footballer demoiselle partly overlaps the one of its congeneric C. unimaculata, but not those of P. trilineatus and P. lacrymatus. Trophic strategies of C. annulata differed both from farming species such as P. lacrymatus or from less territorial herbivores such as P. trilineatus. Its seagrass meadow habitat on the Great Reef of Toliara allow the conquest of an unusual habitat for damselfishes and could limit competition with C. unimaculata, a species displaying the same territorial behavior and the same isotopic niche but living on the reef itself. [less ▲]

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See detailDominant amphipods of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows display considerable trophic diversity
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

in Marine Ecology (2015), 36(4), 969-981

Gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) were combined to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica ... [more ▼]

Gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) were combined to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows and to highlight trophic diversity among this community. Our results indicate that, although all dominant species heavily relied on macroalgal epiphytes, considerable interspecific dietary differences existed. Carbon stable isotope ratios notably showed that some of the amphipod species favored grazing on epiphytes from leaves or litter fragments (Apherusa chiereghinii, Aora spinicornis, Gammarus aequicauda), while others like Dexamine spiniventris preferred epiphytes from rhizomes. The remaining amphipods (Caprella acanthifera, Ampithoe helleri and Gammarella fucicola) readily consumed both groups. In addition, SIAR modeling suggested that most species had a mixed diet, and relied on several food items. Fatty acid analysis and gut contents revealed that contribution of microepiphytic diatoms and of benthic and suspended particulate organic matter to the diet of amphipods were anecdotal. None of the examined species seemed to graze on their seagrass host (low 18:2(n-6) and 18:3(n-3) fatty acids contents), but G. aequicauda partly relied on seagrass leaf detritus, as demonstrated by the lesser 13C-depletion of their tissues. Overall, our findings suggest that amphipods, because of their importance in transfers of organic matter from primary producers and detritus to higher rank consumers, are key-items in P. oceanica associated food webs. [less ▲]

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See detailSTAtion of Reference and rEsearch on Change of local and global Anthropogenic Pressures on Mediterranean Ecosystems Drifts: The STARECAPMED project
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Abadie, Arnaud ULg; Binard, Marc ULg et al

Conference (2015, November 08)

The Marine and Oceanographic Research Station STARESO in the Calvi Bay, Corsica (France), is a unique tool in a preserved natural site that includes all the characteristic ecosystems of the Mediterranean ... [more ▼]

The Marine and Oceanographic Research Station STARESO in the Calvi Bay, Corsica (France), is a unique tool in a preserved natural site that includes all the characteristic ecosystems of the Mediterranean littoral. The station, established in 1970, has archived environmental data for decades. The STARECAPMED project, multidisciplinary, articulates itself around these two main features. Its objective is to understand how human activities can interact with the fundamental processes that govern the functioning of the different coastal ecosystems of a Mediterranean bay. The understanding of these interactions involves: (i) the identification of the anthropogenic pressures; (ii) the quantification of their impacts on the ecosystems; (iii) the prioritization of these impacts. STARECAPMED also aims to confirm the relevance of the use of the Calvi Bay as a reference in the study of local and global pressures and the changes they may cause on the structure and the functioning of Mediterranean coastal ecosytems. [less ▲]

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See detail) The spatial variability of trace element bioaccumulation processes: Tools to environmental management
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Lejeune, Lejeune; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

Conference (2015, November 07)

As transitional environments, coastal meadows are particularly vulnerable to pollution. Trace elements remain contaminants of concern because of their persistence, their ability to accumulate in biota and ... [more ▼]

As transitional environments, coastal meadows are particularly vulnerable to pollution. Trace elements remain contaminants of concern because of their persistence, their ability to accumulate in biota and their toxicity. Local, regional, national and cross-border programs are thus initiated to monitor their environmental occurrence. Sentinel organisms, or bioindicators, have been widely used to this end since they accumulate the bioavailable and thus potentially toxic fraction of contaminants. In the framework of the STARECAPMED project, the accumulation of trace elements in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile was studied at different spatial scales: along a radial (100 m scale), in a bay (1 km scale), along the French Mediterranean littoral (10-100 km scale) and along the whole Mediterranean coastline (100-1000 km scale). Results showed that the contamination of the sampled shoots could vary as much at opposite scales. This benthic primary producer accumulates contaminants sequestered in the sediments, in addition to their dissolved fraction in the water column. The sediments also offer a time integration of coastal pollution and thus amplify the pollution signal recorded by the seagrass, resulting in the observed spatial variability. These results demonstrate that the in-depth knowledge of the ecology of the monitored bioindicator and the interactions it shares with its environment cannot be ignored. Such failure could lead to erroneous interpretations of the levels of contamination of monitored sites, and points out the need to define a sampling strategy based on the monitoring objectives and the selected bioindicator. [less ▲]

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See detailStable isotope ratios suggest limited trophic importance of seagrasses for invertebrate consumers from Malagasy tropical polyspecific seagrass meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Wang, Haolin; Frederich, Bruno ULg et al

Conference (2015, October 09)

Polyspecific seagrass meadows are of critical ecological importance in tropical coastal zones. These ecosystems provide a wide range of socio-economical services to local populations. Meadows however ... [more ▼]

Polyspecific seagrass meadows are of critical ecological importance in tropical coastal zones. These ecosystems provide a wide range of socio-economical services to local populations. Meadows however undergo multiple threats linked to human activities (increased nutrient input, overfishing, invertebrate overharvesting, etc.). It is currently difficult to assess how seagrass meadows could respond to anthropogenic impacts due to poor knowledge of their functional ecology. Here, stable isotope ratios of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur were used to unravel trophic interactions ruling the food webs associated to seagrass beds of the Toliara Great Reef (SW Madagascar). The contributions of various potential food items (sediment-associated and suspended particulate organic matter, plankton, leaves, roots and epiphytes of 7 seagrasses and thalli of 7 dominant macroalgae) to the diet of 20 invertebrate taxa (one sea urchin, 2 sea stars, 2 sea cucumbers, 5 gastropods including one sea hare, one bivalve, 2 amphipods, one leptostracan, one cumacean 2 hermit crabs and 3 shrimps) were assessed using a Bayesian stable isotope mixing model. Model outputs revealed that important trophic diversity existed among the invertebrate assemblage. In some groups (e.g. hermit crabs and amphipods), resource use by morphologically and taxonomically close taxa was markedly different. Many of the dominant taxa heavily relied on macroalgae for their nutrition. On the other hand, few species apparently consumed seagrass tissues. Moreover, when they did, seagrass generally accounted for a minor portion of the diet only. Overall, our results suggest that seagrass grazing in meadows of the Toliara Great Reef could be lower than in other tropical areas. These discrepancies could be linked with seasonal variation in resource availability or with eutrophication. Higher nutrient load is indeed known to cause ecosystem phase shifts and it may induce diet shift to algivory in some invertebrate consumers. [less ▲]

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See detailApplying Stable Isotopes Bayesian Ellipses (SIBER) to characterise trophic niches of large cetaceans from the north-Western Medterranean Sea
Pinzone, Marianna ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Ody, Denis et al

Poster (2015, October 08)

Diet composition and feeding preferences are of critical importance to understand a species' ecology; better knowledge of these matters is necessary for efficient conservation. Few is known on the trophic ... [more ▼]

Diet composition and feeding preferences are of critical importance to understand a species' ecology; better knowledge of these matters is necessary for efficient conservation. Few is known on the trophic ecology of Mediterranean cetacean populations and the elusiveness of these organisms limits acquisition of new information. Here, we analysed C and N isotopic ratios of skin biopsies of 17 fin whales Balaenoptera physalus, 15 long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas and 25 sperm whales Physeter macrocephalus sampled through darting between summer 2010 and 2013 in the North-Western Mediterranean Sea. We subsequently used the SIBER R package to explore isotopic niche parameters as a proxy for trophic niches assessment. Fitting of standard ellipses to each species revealed that no niche overlap between the odontocetes and fin whales was present, in accordance with the lower trophic level of the latter. Moreover, overlap between the isotopic niches of the two odontocetes was limited, confirming resource partitioning between these two species. This could be linked with differences in hunting periods and depths and consequently in prey availability. Bayesian modelling of standard ellipses revealed that the isotopic niche of fin whales was larger than the two odontocetes in over 99.80% of 106 model simulations. It is the first time that such variability is observed in Mediterranean fin whales. This suggests possible exploitation of food items from different trophic levels (krill, small fishes) or from other regions, such as other areas in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-East Atlantic. Modelling also suggested that no meaningful differences were present in the width of isotopic niches of the two odontocetes. The very narrow isotopic niche of pilot whales is in strong contrast with the generalist feeding behaviour this species is believed to have according to literature analysis. Our results open new perspectives on the ecological role of Mediterranean cetaceans. [less ▲]

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See detailDGTs, a complementary tool towards more efficient biomonitoring practices
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Donnay, Annick et al

Conference (2015, October 01)

Among the diversity of contaminants, trace elements (TEs) remain of concern because of their persistence, their ability to accumulate in biota and their toxicity. The direct measurement of their dissolved ... [more ▼]

Among the diversity of contaminants, trace elements (TEs) remain of concern because of their persistence, their ability to accumulate in biota and their toxicity. The direct measurement of their dissolved concentrations only gives punctual and fluctuating information, and often remains below detection limits of analytical methods. The more appropriate use of sentinel organisms, or bioindicators, to monitor TEs has thus often been preferred in environmental surveys. The introduction of the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGTs) technique has however participated to progressively change this binary view - bioindicator vs water - of the coastal monitoring of TEs, and DGTs rapidly became a relevant complementary tool to bioindicators, has illustrated below. In the framework of the STARECAPMED project, the ecology and the ecotoxicology of TEs were studied in the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile and the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis Lamarck, 1819. DGTs (free- and pore-water probes) were deployed before sampling of organisms. TEs were also analyzed in suspended matter (dissolved and suspended-particulate TE speciation). Studies were performed in the Calvi Bay (Corsica, France), northwestern Mediterranean. TE concentrations in organisms and suspended matter or in DGT resins were measured by DRC-ICP-MS after HNO3/H202 mineralization or after a 24h elution in HNO3 1M, respectively. (1) TE bioaccumulation was first seasonally studied in P. oceanica over 3 years. Dissolved TE concentrations monitored with DGTs were low to very low. TE bioaccumulation dynamics in P. oceanica could thus be linked to the natural physiological cycle of the plant, in clean environmental conditions. (2) To complement that field survey, isolated seagrasses were in situ contaminated with TEs at environmental relevant concentrations. Through the use of DGTs, TE uptake kinetics were modelled for seagrasses exposed to know bioavailable concentrations of contaminants, as were loss kinetics during the following depuration phase. The TE sequestration ability of a healthy P. oceanica meadow facing sudden trace metal contamination events could also be quantified. (3) The deployment of pore-water DGT probes in bare-sand or seagrass colonized sediments further showed that, through its stabilizing function of the seabed, P. oceanica maintained higher TE levels in the pore-water. P. oceanica meadows thus offer a significant “depuration-filtering” ecological service along highly anthropized Mediterranean coasts. M. galloprovincialis are widely used in large spatial scale coastal monitoring surveys. (4) The deployment of caged mussels together with DGTs showed that the little contaminated water body of the Calvi Bay was relatively homogenous. It also allowed to calculate TE bioaccumulation towards mussels in reference conditions, and to compare it to native mussel populations. (5) Finally, during a 5 months mussel caging survey, mussels and suspended matter were collected weekly to monthly, such as were deployed DGTs. The physiological status of mussels, the speciation of TEs between their dissolved and suspended-particulate phases, and their relative influence on TE bioaccumulation dynamics in mussels were investigated. In conclusion, these case studies properly demonstrate how DGT probes can be used as a relevant and complementary tool to bioindicators. Their concomitant use should therefore be privileged in monitoring surveys. [less ▲]

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See detailTrace metal speciation? An essential aspect of biomonitoring to avoid wrong conclusions
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Donnay, Annick et al

Poster (2015, September 29)

The Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis is widely used as a bioindicator species in active monitoring surveys. As a filter feeder artificially maintained in the water column, it bioaccumulates ... [more ▼]

The Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis is widely used as a bioindicator species in active monitoring surveys. As a filter feeder artificially maintained in the water column, it bioaccumulates trace metals from the surrounding water in their dissolved and particulate forms. However, most monitoring surveys don’t take into account that speciation aspect when studying trace metal accumulation kinetics in mussels. In the framework of the STARECAPMED project, we monitored trace metal concentrations in the flesh of mussels together with their “most bioavailable” dissolved and particulate fractions in the water column for almost 5 months (February-June 2011). Mussels were purchased from 2 little contaminated French shellfish farms (SARL Etang de Diane and ferme marine des Aresquiers), placed in several pouches to allow regular sampling, and immerged near the Oceanographic Research Station STARESO in the Calvi bay, northwestern Corsica. Mussels and water samples for suspended matter filtration were collected every week to two weeks, as were deployed DGTs. Seawater samples were filtered through 47 mm hydrophilic PTFE membrane filters with a 0.45 µm pore size until clogging. In the laboratory, mussel flesh and filters were digested in Teflon vessels with acids (HNO3/H202) in a closed microwave digestion lab station. DGT resins were eluted for 24h in 1.0 M HNO3. Trace metal concentrations (Cr, Mn, Co, Ni, Cu, Zn, Ag, Cd, Pb) were measured by DRC-ICP-MS. Analytical accuracy was checked by analyzing CRMs. All the studied metals except Pb and Zn were present in the water column to over 80% in their dissolved form. The contribution of the dissolved pathway was thus likely to be predominant in the oligotrophic Calvi bay. Dissolved trace metals showed little temporal variability of their levels, likely resulting from the integration over time of their levels in the DGT probes and the lack of seasonality of this fraction. In contrast, Zn showed great variability of its particulate fraction during the survey. Such temporal variability was also observed for Cr, more abundant in its particulate form at the end of the survey, and for Mn and Pb that conversely tended to decrease. The dynamic of trace metals in the mussel flesh is regulated by the environmental bioavailability of dissolved and particulate metals, the ecophysiological status of mussels and the trophic conditions of the water body. In the oligotrophic Calvi bay, showing background contamination levels by metals, the trophic conditions played a major role once out of the spring plankton bloom. It led to the increase of metal concentrations measured in the flesh of mussels undergoing starvation. However, some metals such as Cu and Co displayed only little temporal variations of their concentrations, these essential micronutrients being well regulated. The combined study of trace metal bioavailability and mussel ecophysiology in defined environmental conditions allows discriminating against biotic and abiotic factors regulating contaminant uptake in mussels, thus avoiding wrong conclusions about the observed dynamics of the studied contaminants. Mussels are a good proxy of coastal water quality, but their proper use notably requires adjustment of raw contaminant concentrations with trophic status of monitored sites. [less ▲]

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See detailComparison of isotopic turnover dynamics in two different muscles of a coral reef fish during the settlement phase
Gajdzik, Laura ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Lecchini, David et al

in Scientia Marina (2015), 79(3), 325-333

The temporal variation in carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions (noted as δ13C and δ15N) was investigated in the convict surgeonfish (Acanthurus triostegus) at Moorea (French Polynesia). Over a period ... [more ▼]

The temporal variation in carbon and nitrogen isotopic compositions (noted as δ13C and δ15N) was investigated in the convict surgeonfish (Acanthurus triostegus) at Moorea (French Polynesia). Over a period of 24 days, juveniles were reared in aquaria and subjected to two different feeding treatments: granules or algae. The dynamics of δ13C and δ15N in two muscles (the adductor mandibulae complex and the epaxial musculature) having different functions were compared. At the end of experiments, a steady-state isotopic system in each muscle tissue was not reached. Especially for the algal treatment, we found different patterns of variation in isotopic compositions over time between the two muscles. The turnovers of δ13C showed opposite trends for each muscle but differences are mitigated by starvation and by the metamorphosis. Our study highlighted that the metabolism of coral reef fish may be subjected to catabolism or anabolism of non-protein precursors at settlement, inducing variation in isotopic compositions that are not linked to diet change. [less ▲]

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See detailSelective top-down control of epiphytic biomass by amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows: implications for ecosystem functioning
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Dupont, Alessandra et al

in Belgian Journal of Zoology (2015), 145(2), 83-93

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter an important biomass and biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans that graze on epiphytes. However, their actual significance for ecosystem functional ... [more ▼]

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter an important biomass and biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans that graze on epiphytes. However, their actual significance for ecosystem functional processes is hard to estimate, due to the lack of adequate data. Here, a field microcosm-based inclusion experiment was used to test if three of the dominant taxa of the amphipod community (Apherusa chiereghinii, Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp.) could exert top-down control on seagrass leaf epiphytes. Influence of amphipod activity on nutrient availability for the host species was also investigated. All grazer taxa significantly reduced biomasses of erect macroalgae and erect sessile animals present on leaves. None of them consumed encrusting epiflora or epifauna. This selective top-down control could have important implications for the structure of the epiphytic community of P. oceanica leaves, which is one of the most diverse and abundant of all seagrass species. Grazing activity of all taxa caused higher N content of seagrass leaves, likely through amphipod excretion and/or sloppy feeding. Since P. oceanica meadows often grow in oligotrophic zones where plant growth can be nutrient-limited, this N enrichment could enhance seagrass production. Overall, the ecological interaction between P. oceanica and amphipods could be seen as a facultative mutualistic relationship. Our results suggest that amphipod mesograzers are key-elements in some of the functional processes regulating these complex and yet endangered ecosystems, which are essential components of Mediterranean coastal zones. [less ▲]

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See detailSTARECAPMED (STAtion of Reference and rEsearch on Change of local and global Anthropogenic Pressures on Mediterranean Ecosystems Drifts) - Année 2014. Rapport de recherches.
Richir, Jonathan ULg; Abadie, Arnaud ULg; Binard, Marc ULg et al

Report (2015)

La prise de conscience, par le grand public, de l'impact grandissant de l'homme sur l'océan est récente. Elle se traduit par une volonté politique sincère de correction par des mesures de protection, de ... [more ▼]

La prise de conscience, par le grand public, de l'impact grandissant de l'homme sur l'océan est récente. Elle se traduit par une volonté politique sincère de correction par des mesures de protection, de gestion et de développement durable. Ces politiques, et leurs conséquences économiques et sociétales lourdes, ne peuvent être acceptées que si les décisions se fondent sur des connaissances scientifiques incontestables et montrent des résultats scientifiquement prouvés. Par ailleurs, ces décisions doivent prendre en compte des impacts qui s'opèrent à des échelles de temps et d’espace très variables, de quelques heures à plusieurs dizaines d’années et de quelques mètres à plusieurs milliers de km. En termes politiques, l'information scientifique nécessaire à la prise de décision doit pouvoir couvrir les différentes échelles depuis le niveau local et régional, jusqu'à l'échelle nationale, européenne voire globale, et cela sur le plus long terme possible. Enfin, pour être complète, l'information scientifique sur les écosystèmes marins doit pouvoir répondre à trois questions objectives : (i) quel est l'état? (ii) quelle est l'évolution? (iii) quels sont les mécanismes et processus mis en jeux? et à une question plus prospective : (vi) que peux-t-on prévoir et comment agir? Le présent rapport ne peut pas, à lui seul, refléter toute la richesse du programme STARECAPMED. En 3 ans, STARECAPMED a généré plusieurs centaines de milliers de données nouvelles, ré-exploité plusieurs centaines de publications, rapports et autres enregistrements passés et présents. Le programme a aussi généré de nombreux documents, rapports et mémoires. Enfin, des publications internationales et des thèses de doctorat sont en cours de réalisation ou abouties. Afin de rester lisible, nous avons donc choisi de présenter ce rapport 2014 sous la forme de 12 exemples parmi les travaux en cours. Ces exemples sont traités selon un schéma identique en 4 points simples : (i) La présentation du cas d’étude dans le projet global ; (ii),Les approches innovatrices développées ; (iii),La présentation de résultats marquants ; (iv),Les délivrables de STARECAPMED pour les politiques publiques. [less ▲]

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See detailChanges of macrofauna stable isotope compositions in a very inconstant seagrass detritic habitat: actual diet modification or baseline shift?
Remy, François ULg; Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Conference (2015, May 20)

Decayed leaves of the Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica, detached and then exported during storms, constitute an important compartment in terms of organic matter transfer from the seagrass bed to the other ... [more ▼]

Decayed leaves of the Neptune grass Posidonia oceanica, detached and then exported during storms, constitute an important compartment in terms of organic matter transfer from the seagrass bed to the other habitats, particularly coastal habitats. These exported litter accumulations (ELA) support a diverse (more than 130 species) and abundant (up to 4900 id.m-2) vagile macrofauna (invertebrates > 500µm) assemblage which may play a key role in the degradation, enrichment and carbon transfer from P. oceanica dead material to coastal food chains. Indeed, preliminary results of vagile invertebrates gut content observations show that even if only a few of these species ingest a large proportion of P.oceanica dead leaves fragments, most of the others ingest a small but non-negligible part, suggesting a potential role of the whole community in the mechanical fragmentation of the dead leaves. ELA are very dynamic habitats with highly variable food availability, quality, and composition. Such an inconstant habitat may result in drastic modifications of the invertebrate community but also of its trophic structure and ecology. To test this hypothesis of influence of pulsed availability, quality and composition of food sources on the vagile macrofauna diet, we took seasonal samples in Calvi Bay (Corsica, 8°45’E; 42°35’N), at two sites between August 2011 and May 2012. Stable isotopes analysis (C&N) were conducted at an individual level on dominant macrofauna species and mixing and isotopic niche model packages in R were used. Bayesian inference “SIBER” package highlighted significant seasonal and spatial differences of diet at the community, specific and even intraspecific level. Data confirm the potential transfer of seagrass material to animal tissues but in various proportions depending of the species and the season. But one question remained: are these variations reflection a true diet change, or only a spatiotemporal baseline variation of the food sources isotopic composition? “SIAR” Bayesian mixing model showed that it depends on the species and that the two responses co-occur. We emphasized the need to work at the specific level but also with an adequate temporal resolution for sampling to encompass diet and baseline variability. [less ▲]

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See detailApplication of stable isotopes in trophic ecology: importance of TEF and seasonal baseline for robust interpretations.
Remy, François ULg; Darchambeau, François ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Conference (2015, April 02)

Nitrogen, carbon and sulfur stable isotopes are very powerful tools for trophic ecologists to delineate food webs of various ecosystems. More recently… the use of mixing models has exponentially increased ... [more ▼]

Nitrogen, carbon and sulfur stable isotopes are very powerful tools for trophic ecologists to delineate food webs of various ecosystems. More recently… the use of mixing models has exponentially increased to give a more specific vision of organism’s diets and trophic relationships. Two case studies will be presented to give a summary of what’s been done in Liège Oceanology Lab to improve our interpretation of stable isotopes results. First is an experimental calculation of the Trophic Enrichment Factors (TEFs) for one dominant detritivorous species of Mediterranean amphipod inhabiting seagrass detritus: Gammarus aequicauda (Martynov, 1931). This experimental study was planned after a strange result of the SAIR mixing model, giving results opposed to all observations and knowledge we had about this species. Thus, the impact of 3 very different food sources (amphipod powder, algae power, seagrass powder) on the turnover rate of C and N isotopic compositions was tested, and afterwards TEFs for C and N for each source were calculated. Animal food source showed to be the most effectively assimilated with a fast turnover rate while seagrass and algae showed very slow assimilation. TEFs calculations showed to be interesting because TEFs seem not to depend on the natural feeding type of the invertebrate but more on the type of food source. Animal source showed carnivorous TEFs values while seagrass and algae source showed typical detritivorous values. SIAR results with these new custom values gave more coherent values highlighting the major importance of TEFs values for mixing models data interpretation. Second is a simple question: are the seasonal isotopic composition variations observed for many seagrass detritus macrofauna species due to actual diet changes, or only to isotopic baseline shift of the food sources? Macrofauna and all potential food sources were sampled near STARESO Oceanographic Station (Corsica, 8°45’E; 42°35’N) in 2011-2012 at each season at two different sites. SIBER software runs with C and N isotopic data showed spatio-temporal isotopic variations at community, interspecific and intraspecific level. SIBER did not gave us information about the origin of these changes, but coupled with SIAR and our custom TEFs, species actually showing drastic changes of diet were identified, while others seem to reflect more a source baseline isotopic composition shift. Working at specific level is compulsory for fine conclusions. These two case studies highlight the importance of mixing model use and of accurate TEF values to run these models properly to draw robust and reliable conclusions using stable isotopic data. [less ▲]

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