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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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See detailAxIOM: Amphipod crustaceans from insular Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Heughebaert, André et al

in Biodiversity Data Journal (2016), 4

Background The Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, 1813, is the most widespread seagrass of the Mediterranean Sea. This foundation species forms large meadows that, through habitat and trophic ... [more ▼]

Background The Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, 1813, is the most widespread seagrass of the Mediterranean Sea. This foundation species forms large meadows that, through habitat and trophic services, act as biodiversity hotspots. In Neptune grass meadows, amphipod crustaceans are one of the dominant groups of vagile invertebrates, forming an abundant and diverse taxocenosis. They are key ecological components of the complex, pivotal, yet critically endangered Neptune grass ecosystems. Nevertheless, comprehensive qualitative and quantitative data about amphipod fauna found in Mediterranean Neptune grass meadows remain scarce, especially in insular locations. New information Here, we provide in-depth metadata about AxIOM, a sample-based dataset published on the GBIF portal. AxIOM is based on an extensive and spatially hierarchized sampling design with multiple years, seasons, day periods, and methods. Samples were taken along the coasts of Calvi Bay (Corsica, France) and of the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (Sardinia, Italy). In total, AxIOM contains 187 samples documenting occurrence (1775 records) and abundance (10720 specimens) of amphipod crustaceans belonging to 72 species spanning 29 families. The dataset is available at http://ipt.biodiversity.be/resource?r=axiom. [less ▲]

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See detailFeeding ecology of Southern Ocean seastars inferred from stable isotopes ratios
Le Bourg, Baptiste ULg; Blanchard, Alice; Danis, Bruno et al

Poster (2016, September 05)

The Southern Ocean is currently subjected to strong and contrasted impacts of climate change. The Western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions of the world, resulting in sea ice ... [more ▼]

The Southern Ocean is currently subjected to strong and contrasted impacts of climate change. The Western Antarctic Peninsula is one of the most rapidly warming regions of the world, resulting in sea ice cover decreases. Increasing seawater temperature and sea ice cover reduction in Western Antarctic Peninsula and associated regions will likely impact food web functioning through temperature-related changes in consumer physiology, modifications of benthic community structure (e.g. expansion of exogenous species such as predatory crabs), modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling intensity or disruption of benthic production. Asteroids (Echinoderms) are an important group of southern benthos. This group also has a great trophic variability and is potentially more resistant than other organisms to temperature changes (Peck et al. 2008). Consequently, they will be likely impacted by modifications in food webs functioning rather by direct warming and investigating their trophic ecology is necessary to infer how climate change will impact them. In this context, the aim of this study is to use stable isotopes ratios of C, N and S to infer sea stars trophic ecology. 16 species of sea stars spanning 10 different families sampled in multiple and contrasted habitats across Subantarctic (South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Falkland Islands) and Antarctic (South Shetland Islands, South Orkney Islands, Western Antarctic Peninsula) locations. In total, tegument samples from 213 specimens was analysed. Diversity and plasticity of asteroid diet along Southern Ocean coasts were explored through isotopic niche parametrisation (e.g. niche width and overlap between species and/or populations; Jackson et al. 2011). The data will also be used in a larger scale research project on the trophic ecology of Antarctic sea stars. This project will notably compare trophic resources supporting asteroid communities in Western Antarctic Peninsula, where sea ice cover is decreasing, and in Terre Adélie, where sea ice cover is increasing (Parkinson & Cavalieri 2012). Ultimately, this project will help understanding which ecological processes determine how an animal group copes with environmental modifications linked to climate change. [less ▲]

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See detailUnusually high sea ice cover influences resource use by benthic invertebrates in coastal Antarctica
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dubois, Philippe; Eleaume, Marc et al

Poster (2016, September 05)

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. Changes in sea ice cover are likely to influence benthic food web structure through modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling, disruption of benthic production and/or modifications of benthic community structure (i.e. resource availability for benthic consumers). Here, 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 stable isotope ratios of C and N and the SIAR mixing model, we examined importance of 4 organic matter sources (benthic macroalgae, benthic biofilm, sympagic algae, suspended particulate organic matter) for nutrition of dominant primary consumers and omnivores. 14 invertebrate taxa including sessile and mobile polychaetes, gastropods, bivalves, sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers were studied. Our results indicate that most benthic invertebrates predominantly relied on sympagic algae. Despite its very high abundance, trophic role of benthic biofilm seemed limited. However, interpretation of data was complicated by the peculiar ecophysiological features of Antarctic invertebrates, whose very low metabolic rates could be associated to low isotopic turnover and long time to reach isotopic equilibrium with their food items. Resource use by consumers from Adélie Land markedly differed from literature data about invertebrate diet in coastal Antarctica, suggesting 1) important influence of increased sea ice cover on benthic food web structure and 2) high spatial and/or temporal variation in the feeding habits of studied organisms, likely linked with a high degree of trophic plasticity. 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. [less ▲]

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See detailEVALUATION OF FISH EXPOSURE TO POP-LIKE (ORGANOTIN) COMPOUNDS IN SEPETIBA BAY (RIO DE JANEIRO STATE, BRAZIL) THROUGH HEPATIC TOTAL TIN CONCENTRATIONS
Paiva, TC; Schilithz, PF; Bisi, TL et al

in Organohalogen Compounds (2016, August)

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See detailEpiphytic bryozoans on Neptune grass – a sample-based data set
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Heughebaert, André; Michel, Loïc ULg

in ZooKeys (2016), 606

Background The seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. Delile, commonly known as Neptune grass, is an endemic species of the Mediterranean Sea. It hosts a distinctive and diverse epiphytic community, dominated by ... [more ▼]

Background The seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. Delile, commonly known as Neptune grass, is an endemic species of the Mediterranean Sea. It hosts a distinctive and diverse epiphytic community, dominated by various macroalgal and animal organisms. Mediterranean bryozoans have been extensively studied but quantitative data assessing temporal and spatial variability have rarely been documented. In Lepoint et al. (2014a, b) occurrence and abundance data of epiphytic bryozoan communities on leaves of P. oceanica inhabiting the Revellata Bay (Corsica, Mediterranean Sea) were reported and trophic ecology of Electra posidoniae Gautier assessed. New information Here, we provide metadata information on data set discussed in Lepoint et al. 2014a and published on the GBIF portal as a sampling-event data set: http://ipt.biodiversity.be/resource?r=ulg_bryozoa&v=1.0). The data set, compared to Lepoint et al. 2014a, is enriched by data concerning species settled on Posidonia scales (dead petiole of Posidonia leaves, remaining after limb abscission). [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic interactions between two neustonic organisms: insights from Bayesian stable isotope data analysis tools
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Laurent, Bernard; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

in Belgian Journal of Zoology (2016), 146(2), 123-133

The by-the-wind sailor Velella velella (Linnaeus, 1758) and its predator, the violet snail Janthina globosa (Swainson, 1822) are both floating neustonic organisms. Despite their global oceanic ... [more ▼]

The by-the-wind sailor Velella velella (Linnaeus, 1758) and its predator, the violet snail Janthina globosa (Swainson, 1822) are both floating neustonic organisms. Despite their global oceanic distribution and widespread blooms of V. velella in recent years, many gaps remain in our understanding about prey/predator interactions between these two taxa. Using stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen, we aimed to study the trophic relationship between V. velella and J. globosa and investigate diet variation of V. velella and J. globosa in relation to individuals’ size. Bayesian approaches were used to calculate isotopic niche metrics and the contribution of V. velella to the J. globosa diet. Our data showed that the isotopic niche of V. velella differed markedly from that of J. globosa. It was larger and did not overlap that of the J. globosa, indicating a more variable diet but at a lower trophic level than J. globosa. The isotopic niche of V. velella also varied according to the size class of the individual. Small individuals showed a larger isotopic niche than larger animals and low overlap with those of the larger individuals. J. globosa displayed very low isotopic variability and very small isotopic niches. In contrast, there were no isotopic composition nor isotopic niche differences between J. globosa of any size. This very low isotopic variability suggested that J. globosa is a specialist predator, feeding, at least in this aggregation, principally on V. velella. Moreover, outputs of a stable isotope mixing model revealed preferential feeding on medium to large (> 500 mm2) V. velella colonies. While our isotopic data showed the trophic relationship between V. velella and J. globosa, many questions remain about the ecology of these two organisms, demonstrating the need for more fundamental studies about neustonic ecosystems. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic plasticity of Antarctic echinoids under contrasted environmental conditions
Michel, Loïc ULg; David, Bruno; Dubois, Philippe et al

in Polar Biology (2016), 39(5), 913-923

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was ... [more ▼]

Echinoids are common members of Antarctic zoobenthos, and different groups can show important trophic diversity. As part of the ANT-XXIX/3 cruise of RV Polarstern, trophic plasticity of sea urchins was studied in three neighbouring regions (Drake Passage, Bransfield Strait and Weddell Sea) featuring several depth-related habitats offering different trophic environments to benthic consumers. Three families with contrasting feeding habits (Cidaridae, Echinidae and Schizasteridae) were studied. Gut content examination and stable isotopes ratios of C and N suggest that each of the studied families showed a different response to variation in environmental and food conditions. Schizasteridae trophic plasticity was low, and these sea urchins were bulk sediment feeders relying on sediment-associated organic matter in all regions and/or depth-related habitats. Cidaridae consumed the most animal-derived material. Their diet varied according to the considered area, as sea urchins from Bransfield Strait relied mostly on living and/or dead animal material, while specimens from Weddell Sea fed on a mixture of dead animal material and other detritus. Echinidae also showed important trophic plasticity. They fed on various detrital items in Bransfield Strait, and selectivity of ingested material varied across depth-related habitats. In Weddell Sea, stable isotopes revealed that they mostly relied on highly 13C-enriched food items, presumably microbially-reworked benthic detritus. The differences in adaptive strategies could lead to family-specific responses of Antarctic echinoids to environmental and food-related changes. [less ▲]

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See detailUse of stable isotope ratios to delineate coastal benthic food web structure in Adélie Land (East Antarctica)
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dubois, Philippe; Eleaume, Marc et al

Poster (2016, April 29)

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, in some parts of East Antarctica sea ice cover tends to increase, possibly in relation with changes in atmospheric circulation. Changes in sea ice cover are likely to influence benthic food web structure through modifications of benthic-pelagic coupling, disruption of benthic production and/or modifications of benthic community structure (i.e. resource availability for benthic consumers). Here, 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 stable isotope ratios of C, N and S, we examined importance of several organic matter sources (benthic macroalgae, benthic biofilm, sympagic algae, suspended particulate organic matter and penguin guano) for nutrition of over 20 taxa of benthic invertebrates (sponges, sea anemones, nemerteans, sessile and mobile polychaetes, gastropods, bivalves, sipunculids, pycnogonids, amphipods, sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers) spanning most present functional guilds. 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 changes in environmental conditions and trophic resource availability. [less ▲]

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