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See detailShading and alterations of the sediment: in situ experiments to mimic impacts of fish farms on a Mediterranean coastal ecosystem
Pete, Dorothée ULg; Velimirov, Branko; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

Poster (2010, October)

In the Mediterranean coastal zone, the seagrass Posidonia oceanica forms underwater meadows which sustain a high biodiversity and has many important roles (production of oxygen, protection of coasts ... [more ▼]

In the Mediterranean coastal zone, the seagrass Posidonia oceanica forms underwater meadows which sustain a high biodiversity and has many important roles (production of oxygen, protection of coasts, ...). Unfortunately, they are more and more threaten, notably by the increasing development of aquaculture. Indeed, fish farms increase the biomass of phytoplankton organisms in the water column (leading to a shading effect) and modify the sediment, which entail the disappearance of the seagrass. To understand the impact of those troubles on P. oceanica and the ecosystem, in situ experiments were led during three months, in STARESO (STAtion de Recherches Sous- marines et Océanographiques; Calvi, Corsica), at a depth of 10 meters. The shading was mimicked by shading frames, which stopped around 50 % of the incident light. To modify the sedimentary compartment, sediment was taken from under the aquaculture of Calvi and added once a week on marked zones in the meadow. Those sites were compared with a control site, situated near them. Measured parameters are: the concentration of nutrients in pore water, grain size, redox potential discontinuity, biomasses of bacteria, organic matter, meiofauna and microphytobenthos within the sediment, the length, width, biomass and chlorophyll a content of P. oceanica leaves and the biomass of epiphytes. During those experiments, P. oceanica was not very affected although some parameters of the sedimentary compartment were modified. These results show that the sedimentary compartment reacts more rapidly to threats then the seagrass itself. So, it could be an interesting tool in quality assessments. [less ▲]

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See detailAssessment of gestation, lactation and fasting on stable isotope ratios in northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)
Habran, Sarah ULg; Debier, Cathy; Crocker, Dan E. et al

in Marine Mammal Sciences (2010), 26(4), 880-895

Effects of physiological processes such as gestation, lactation and nutritional stress on stable isotope ratios remain poorly understood. To determine their impact, we investigated these processes in ... [more ▼]

Effects of physiological processes such as gestation, lactation and nutritional stress on stable isotope ratios remain poorly understood. To determine their impact, we investigated these processes in simultaneously fasting and lactating northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris). Stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values were measured in blood and milk of 10 mother-pup pairs on days 5 and 22 of lactation. As long- and short-term integrators of diet, blood cells and serum may reflect foraging data or energy reserves from late gestation and lactation, respectively. Limited changes in isotopic signatures of maternal blood over the lactating period were highlighted. Nitrogen isotope fractionation associated with mother-to-offspring transfer of nutrients was generated between mother and offspring during gestation and lactation. This fractionation was tissue and time-specific, it varied between early and late lactation from +0.6‰ to +1.3‰ in blood cells and from +1.1‰ to nonsignificant value in serum. Therefore, if pups appear to be good proxies to investigate the female trophic ecology especially for C sources, much more caution is required in using δ15N values. Further studies are also needed to better define the relative impact of fasting and lactation on the enrichment or depletion of isotopes in different tissues. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of grazing by amphipods on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover of the Posidonia oceanica leaves : an in vitro experiment.
Michel, Loïc ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Conference (2010, September 17)

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. However, little or no work has ... [more ▼]

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. However, little or no work has been undertaken to quantify this interaction. Here, we present the results of an in vitro experiment that used seagrass mimics to estimate the impact of grazing by the amphipods Apherusa chiereghinii, Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover. All species reduced epiphyte biomass in a significant way, and grazers preferentially fed on erected algae. Assimilation of epiphyte-derived carbon and nitrogen was monitored using stable isotopes (13C and 15N) labelling, and was obvious in the three taxa. Moreover, grazing activity of amphipods seemed to influence epiphyte physiology, notably by increasing nitrogen uptake by the erected algae. These results shed light on trophic interactions between the amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows and the seagrass epiphytic cover, and thus enhance our understanding of the role of these grazers in the functioning of the meadow as an ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detailThe role of fish predation in the structure of amphipod community associated with Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Panzalis, Pier et al

Conference (2010, September)

Despite the major ecological importance of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean Sea, little attention has been given to community structuring forces by predators in this ecosystem. To ... [more ▼]

Despite the major ecological importance of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean Sea, little attention has been given to community structuring forces by predators in this ecosystem. To better understand the mechanisms by which fishes affect amphipod community structure associated to P. oceanica beds, experimental manipulations of predation intensity (enclosure and exclusion cages) were set up in the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (Sardinia, NW Mediterranean). In totally protected area, where high abundance of predatory fishes is recorded, we have performed exclusion experiment. Total amphipod abundance increased at the end of the experiment, but diversity and specific composition were unaffected. At the species taxonomic level, significant increase in abundance between treatments appeared only for Caprella acanthifera. In partially protected area, where fish abundance is lower and amphipod abundance higher, individuals of the carnivorous fish Coris julis (Labridae) were enclosed in cages to provide an estimate of the potential for this species to impact on amphipod community. There was a small but measurable effect on amphipod abundance between enclosures and unmanipulated controls. A few dominant amphipod species responded to fish predation by significant decrease in abundance. These results suggest that fish predation may determine the relative abundances in the community of some amphipod species and to some degree, through an untested link with habitat complexity, determine the spatial distribution of amphipod abundance within P. oceanica beds. Moreover, patterns observed at the species level, suggest parallel complex interactions probably mainly related to ecological behaviour of amphipod species. [less ▲]

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See detailMultiparametric observations and analysis in the Bay of Calvi (Corsica), an ideal site for studying the human activity effects and climate changes in the Mediterranean Sea; STARESO
Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Alvera Azcarate, Aïda ULg; Barth, Alexander ULg et al

Conference (2010, May)

STARESO (Station de REcherche Sous marine et Océanographique) is the marine and oceanographic research station of the University of Liège (Belgium) managed by the French company STARESO S.A.. Constructed ... [more ▼]

STARESO (Station de REcherche Sous marine et Océanographique) is the marine and oceanographic research station of the University of Liège (Belgium) managed by the French company STARESO S.A.. Constructed in 1969, it is located near Calvi (Corsica, Western Mediterranean Sea) in an oligotrophic area chosen for the exceptional quality of its coastal waters STARESO offers to the oceanographers, by diving or with boats, a direct access to the sea. The variety of the accessible ecosystems is remarkable and unique in the Mediterranean basin: -the Bay of Calvi is characterized by healthy and very diverse biocenosis (e.g. Posidonia meadows, rocky and sandy communities, -a steep submarine canyon, with depths greater than 1 000 meters, is accessible in 15 minutes of navigation; -the Liguro-Provençal front, a major hydrologic structure, is situated between 10 and 15 miles of the coast. STARESO is accessible all the year for everybody and is functioning like an oceanographic research vessel. The Station is a platform for all oceanographic disciplines with a scientific expertise widely based on a long tradition of interdisciplinary work, and a direct access to time series of physical, chemical and biological data registered with automated systems and variety of sensors deployed in the Bay of Calvi since 30 years. This platform provides the opportunity to reach coastal, pelagic, benthic, deep systems with a manageable cost and ship requirements in a pristine zone. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic niche width, shift, and specialization of Dascyllus aruanus in Toliara lagoon, Madagascar
Frederich, Bruno ULg; Lehanse, Olivier; Vandewalle, Pierre ULg et al

in Copeia (2010), 2010(2), 218-226

Intrapopulation diet specializations may result from the use of different dietary items or foraging tactics by individuals within a single population. The damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus, is a highly site ... [more ▼]

Intrapopulation diet specializations may result from the use of different dietary items or foraging tactics by individuals within a single population. The damselfish, Dascyllus aruanus, is a highly site-attached coral reef fish living in size hierarchies among branched corals. The trophic niche width and feeding specialization of this species were explored using stable isotopes and stomach content analyses. Intra-group niche variation was mainly related to fish size. Within social groups, D. aruanus gradually shifted its foraging tactics according to size; smaller fish fed on benthic prey such as isopods and copepods, and the larger fish foraged in the water column on planktonic copepods and larger-sized prey. Group density was found to explain some variation in trophic niche characteristics; greater specialization on prey size was observed in the colony having the highest density. All members of the largest colony foraged more frequently in the water column. Knowing that planktonic copepods are more energy-rich than benthic ones, a positive group-size effect facilitating access to preferred prey is suggested. Group size and group density effects on trophic specialization did not have any impact on body condition, suggesting that the behavioral plasticity of D. aruanus in its foraging strategies permits compensation for the maintenance of body conditions. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic diversity of idoteids (Crustacea, Isopoda) inhabiting the Posidonia oceanica litter
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Caut, Stéphane; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

in Marine Biology (2010), 157(2), 237-247

The coexistence of three idoteid species in Posidonia oceanica litter raises the question of trophic diversity and their role in the litter degradation process. Hence, diet composition of Idotea balthica ... [more ▼]

The coexistence of three idoteid species in Posidonia oceanica litter raises the question of trophic diversity and their role in the litter degradation process. Hence, diet composition of Idotea balthica, Idotea hectica and Cleantis prismatica was studied using a combination of gut contents and stable isotopes analysis. Gut content observations indicate that P. oceanica dead leaves are an important part of the ingested food for the three species, although their tissues are constituted of only a small to medium fraction of P. oceanica carbon. Our results also underlined the potential role of these species in the degradation of P. oceanica litter by mechanically fragmenting the litter and by assimilating a small to medium fraction of carbon. Moreover, we showed that there were considerable inter- and intra-specific differences in diet composition. Diet differed between juveniles and adults for I. balthica. Crustaceans are an important food source for adults of I. balthica, while I. hectica indicated a major contribution of algal material. C. prismatica showed an intermediate diet. This trophic diversity is probably one of the factors allowing these species to coexist in the same biotope. [less ▲]

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See detailFood and feeding of Limnothrissa miodon and Lamprichthys tanganicanus in Lake Kivu
Masilya, M Pascal; Isumbisho, Mwapu Pascal; Darchambeau, François ULg et al

Poster (2010, January 13)

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See detailSampling methods for amphipods of Posidonia oceanica meadows: a comparative study
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

in Crustaceana (2010), 83(1), 39-47

Efficient sampling of amphipod crustaceans associated with Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile meadows is difficult, due to their complex community structure and to the heterogeneity of the meadows. Here we ... [more ▼]

Efficient sampling of amphipod crustaceans associated with Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile meadows is difficult, due to their complex community structure and to the heterogeneity of the meadows. Here we compare three sampling techniques: the hand-towed net, the air-lift, and light traps. Each of the methods shows specific advantages and disadvantages, hence the most important feature to consider in the choice of the method would be its adequacy with regard to the study purpose. Moreover, the most accurate way to sample amphipods from P. oceanica meadows could be to combine several methods, keeping in mind their respective strengths and weaknesses, and to adapt the sampling protocol to the aims of the study at issue. [less ▲]

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See detailBulk organic geochemistry of sediments from Puyehue Lake and its watershed (Chile, 40°S): Implications for paleoenvironmental reconstructions
Bertrand, Sébastien; Sterken, Mieke; Vargas-Ramirez, Lourdes et al

in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology (2010), 294

Since the last deglaciation, the mid-latitudes of the southern Hemisphere have undergone considerable environmental changes. In order to better understand the response of continental ecosystems to ... [more ▼]

Since the last deglaciation, the mid-latitudes of the southern Hemisphere have undergone considerable environmental changes. In order to better understand the response of continental ecosystems to paleoclimate changes in southern South America, we investigated the sedimentary record of Puyehue Lake, located in the western piedmont of the Andes in South-Central Chile (40°S). We analyzed the elemental (C, N) and stable isotopic ([delta]13C, [delta]15N) composition of the sedimentary organic matter preserved in the lake and its watershed to estimate the relative changes in the sources of sedimentary organic carbon through space and time. The geochemical signature of the aquatic and terrestrial end-members was determined on samples of lake particulate organic matter (N/C: 0.130) and Holocene paleosols (N/C: 0.069), respectively. A simple mixing equation based on the N/C ratio of these end-members was then used to estimate the fraction of terrestrial carbon ([latin small letter f with hook]T) preserved in the lake sediments. Our approach was validated using surface sediment samples, which show a strong relation between [latin small letter f with hook]T and distance to the main rivers and to the shore. We further applied this equation to an 11.22 m long sediment core to reconstruct paleoenvironmental changes in Puyehue Lake and its watershed during the last 17.9 kyr. Our data provide evidence for a first warming pulse at 17.3 cal kyr BP, which triggered a rapid increase in lake diatom productivity, lagging the start of a similar increase in sea surface temperature (SST) off Chile by 1500 years. This delay is best explained by the presence of a large glacier in the lake watershed, which delayed the response time of the terrestrial proxies and limited the concomitant expansion of the vegetation in the lake watershed (low [latin small letter f with hook]T). A second warming pulse at 12.8 cal kyr BP is inferred from an increase in lake productivity and a major expansion of the vegetation in the lake watershed, demonstrating that the Puyehue glacier had considerably retreated from the watershed. This second warming pulse is synchronous with a 2 °C increase in SST off the coast of Chile, and its timing corresponds to the beginning of the Younger Dryas Chronozone. These results contribute to the mounting evidence that the climate in the mid-latitudes of the southern Hemisphere was warming during the Younger Dryas Chronozone, in agreement with the bipolar see-saw hypothesis. [less ▲]

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See detailA 500-yr record of Northern Patagonian environmental changes: Lago Plomo and Lago Bertrand
Fagel, Nathalie ULg; Brix, J.; El Ouahabi, M. et al

Poster (2010)

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See detailGeochemical evidence (C, N and Pb isotopes) of recent anthropogenic impact in south-central Chile from two environmentally distinct lake sediment records
Fagel, Nathalie ULg; Bertrand, Sebastien; Mattielli, Nadine et al

in Journal of Quaternary Science (2010), 25(7), 1100-1112

In this paper, we compare the elemental and isotopic (C, N, Pb) geochemistry of lake sediments from two contrasted environments in south-central Chile. The first lake, Laguna Chica de San Pedro (LCSP), is ... [more ▼]

In this paper, we compare the elemental and isotopic (C, N, Pb) geochemistry of lake sediments from two contrasted environments in south-central Chile. The first lake, Laguna Chica de San Pedro (LCSP), is situated in the urbanised area of the Biobio Region (36°S). The second lake, Lago Puyehue (40° S), is located 400 km to the southeast of LCSP and within an Andean national park. Our aim is to identify environmental impacts associated with increasing industrial activities and land degradation during the last 150 a. In LCSP, shifts in C/N atomic ratios, 13C and 15N from 1915-1937 to the late 1980s are attributed to successive land degradation episodes in the lake watershed. Based on a Pb isotopic mixing model, we estimate that up to 20% of lead in LCSP sediments is supplied from urban atmospheric pollution. By contrast, human impact in the watershed of Lago Puyehue is very limited. We observe no change in organic geochemistry during the last 150 a and lead contamination remains lower than 5%, even during the last decades. Although contamination levels are much higher in LCSP than in Lago Puyehue, a peak in anthropogenic Pb is recorded during the same period (1974-1976) at both sites. This maximum contamination level is consistent with increased industrial activity in the vicinity of Concepción. [less ▲]

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See detailTracing sewage and natural freshwater input in a Northwest Mediterranean bay: Evidence obtained from isotopic ratios in marine organisms
Lassauque, Julien; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Thibaut, T. et al

in Marine Pollution Bulletin (2010), 60(6), 843-851

Elemental carbon and nitrogen levels and isotope ratios were assessed in different biological compartments of a Northwest (NW) Mediterranean bay to trace the various sources of nutrient input from natural ... [more ▼]

Elemental carbon and nitrogen levels and isotope ratios were assessed in different biological compartments of a Northwest (NW) Mediterranean bay to trace the various sources of nutrient input from natural (river runoffs) and anthropogenic (harbor outflows, fish farms and urban sewage outfall) sources. Samples from transplanted mussels and natural sea grass communities (Posidonia oceanica leaves and epiphytes) were harvested from different locations throughout the bay during the touristic summer and rainy seasons. The results from the nitrogen analysis revealed that sewage and harbor outflow promote higher nitrogen levels, enrichment of N-15 in the tissues, and a higher seasonal variability in sea grass and epiphytes. In mussel tissues, the delta N-15 was also influenced by sewage and harbor outflow, whereas delta C-13 was influenced by terrestrial inputs. These results suggest that natural and anthropogenic nutrient inputs have a temporary and localized influence and affect the sensitivity of natural isotopic ratios to changes in hydrologic conditions, especially to rain and tourism. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. [less ▲]

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See detailMultidisciplinary study of the trophic diversity and functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated to Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2009, November 27)

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows are critical features of the Mediterranean coastal zones, and ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows are critical features of the Mediterranean coastal zones, and are of great ecologic and economic importance. Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate meadows, such as Atlantic Zostera marina meadows, the amphipods play an important part in the functioning of the ecosystem, notably in organic matter transfers from producers to higher level consumers. However, the situation in Posidonia oceanica meadows remains unclear, due to the lack of precise studies, and little is known about the trophic ecology of amphipods. In this context, our research is structured in three main tasks. We chose the Calvi Bay (NW Corsica, France) as a study site, and sampling is undertaken from the STARESO research station (University of Liège, Belgium). First, we study the exact composition of the amphipod community, as well as its temporal variation at diel and seasonal scale. This task is based on in situ collection of samples using three methods: the hand-towed net, litter collection and light traps. Completion of this task will allow us to have accurate and reliable data, taken on our study site, concerning the abundance and specific diversity of amphipods associated with P. oceanica meadows. The second task is a reconstruction of the diet of the studied animals. Indeed, amphipods from P. oceanica meadows are usually regarded as vegetal epiphytes grazers, or generalist detritivores, but few studies focus on the interspecific trophy diversity, or on the importance of alternative food sources. Our approach relies on in situ sampling of amphipods and potential food items. The techniques used combine traditional methods (gut content observation) and use of trophic markers, such as measurements of C and N stable isotope rations and fatty acid composition analysis. Finally, we use in vitro and in situ microcosms experiments to evaluate the impact of amphipod feeding activity on the ecosystem functioning, and more precisely on the dynamics of the epiphyte cover. By quantifying this interaction, our purpose is to put back the results obtained in the first two parts into a wider context, the functioning of the Posidonia oceanica meadow as an ecosystem. Thus, by combining in situ sampling and in vitro experimentation, and by combining traditional and innovating techniques, we hope, at the end of this research, to enhance the knowledge of the trophic diversity and the functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated with Mediterranean Posidonia meadows. [less ▲]

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See detailUse of C & N stable isotopes to evaluate interspecific trophic diversity among amphipods from Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Nyssen, Fabienne ULg et al

Poster (2009, January 27)

Amphipods are one of the most diverse and abundant taxa of vagile invertebrates associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. Therefore, they likely play an essential part in those ecosystems’ ... [more ▼]

Amphipods are one of the most diverse and abundant taxa of vagile invertebrates associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. Therefore, they likely play an essential part in those ecosystems’ functioning, notably in organic matter transfers from producers to higher level consumers. Nevertheless, their trophic ecology remains poorly known, and they are generally regarded as epiflora grazers or generalist detritivores. Here, we focused on interspecific trophic diversity, and on the importance of other food sources (epifauna, Posidonia leaves & litter, suspended organic matter, …) in those amphipod’s diet. To achieve these goals, we used C and N stable isotopes ratios as trophic tracers. We noticed considerable trophic diversity among amphipods from different species, with δ13C values ranging from -16 to -26 ‰. Moreover, while some species (such as Apherusa chiereghinii and Aora spinicornis) seem to feed mainly on epiphytes, others, like Dexamine spiniventris, exploit other food sources. This study enhances the comprehension of the feeding ecology of these amphipods, and therefore of the way they interact with the Posidonia meadow ecosystem. [less ▲]

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