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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 (in press)

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 detailPetite excursion en Cryptozoologie (Mythes - Cryptides - Canulars)
Dauby, Patrick ULg

Scientific conference (2015, April 29)

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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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See detailApplications of stable isotopes in environmental studies at the University of Liege
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg; Das, Krishna ULg et al

Poster (2015, March 26)

Measurement and use of stable isotope ratios have a long history at the University of Liege (Belgium). Since at least 30 years, applications of stable isotopes in marine ecosystems have been developed ... [more ▼]

Measurement and use of stable isotope ratios have a long history at the University of Liege (Belgium). Since at least 30 years, applications of stable isotopes in marine ecosystems have been developed within the Laboratory of Oceanology and, more recently, within the Chemical Oceanography Unit. In the Laboratory of Oceanology, one research axis is the measurement of stable isotope composition (C, N, S) in organic matter to delineate trophic web structure and to study animal diet, their trophic niches and their alteration by human activities. This methodology has been successively applied worldwide in different habitats and ecosystems (marine, freshwater, terrestrial) in temperate and tropical areas. Mediterranean food web and fish trophic ecology have received a particular attention. Coupling between trophic ecology and ecotoxicology is another area of investigation. This has been applied mainly to marine vertebrates and freshwater ecosystems. Stable isotope labelling is also used in our laboratory to study and quantify various ecological processes such as inorganic nitrogen incorporation and trophic transfers. The laboratory facilities, renewed in 2012 and managed by Dr. Gilles Lepoint, are composed of an elemental analyser (EA, vario MICRO cube, Elementar) and a gas chromatography (GC, Agilent) coupled to an isotope ratio mass spectrometer (IRMS, Isoprime 100). The GC is also equipped with a quadrupole mass spectrometer. In 2014, the Chemical Oceanography Unit, headed by Dr. Alberto Borges, has acquired and implemented an off-axis cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) for the measurements of δ15Nα, δ15Nβ, δ18O of N2O. This enables characterization of the N2O origin in a variety of aquatic environments including groundwater in Wallonia, rivers and lakes in Wallonia and Africa, coastal environments (Scheldt estuary, Lake Grevelingen, North Sea), Mediterranean seagrass beds, and Antarctic and Arctic sea-ice. [less ▲]

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See detailSeasonal sampling and stable isotopes use to delineate seagrass phytodetritus macrofauna trophic ecology: baseline variation or actual diet change?
Remy, François ULg; Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Conference (2014, December 12)

In Mediterranean exported seagrass macrophytodetritus accumulations, a diverse (more than 130 species) and abundant (up to 4900 id.m-2) macrofauna assemblage is found alongside meiofauna, microalgae ... [more ▼]

In Mediterranean exported seagrass macrophytodetritus accumulations, a diverse (more than 130 species) and abundant (up to 4900 id.m-2) macrofauna assemblage is found alongside meiofauna, microalgae, fungi and bacteria. Macrophytodetritus are mainly composed of poorly digestible yet highly colonized material: the dead leaves of the very productive (300 to 2000 g dry wt m-2 yr-1) endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica. A key role may be played by macrofauna, and more particularly by litter vagile macroinvertebrates (invertebrates > 500µm), in the degradation, enrichment and carbon transfer from P. oceanica to coastal food webs. Indeed, results of gut content observations of the most abundant species 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. Mediterranean exported macrophytodetritus accumulations are very dynamic habitats with very 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. Gut content observations and C/N/S stable isotope analysis of bulk tissues were conducted on both the macrofauna and their potential food sources. Significant seasonal and spatial differences of ingestion patterns of the most abundant species were emphasised as were differences of isotopic signatures. “SIAR” Bayesian mixing model and “SIBER” package were used to analyse isotopic data and determine if these differences were due to actual diet modifications or only to baselines isotopic composition variations. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic connectivity between two ecosystems: supplies of kelp litter to coastal soft substrata
Vandenbosch, François; Davoult, Dominique; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Scientific conference (2014, December 04)

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See detailConnectivité trophique entre deux écosystèmes: le cas des litières de laminaires et des substrats meubles côtiers
Vandenbosch, François; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

Conference (2014, November 24)

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See detailHas oxygen depletion an impact on nutrients and macrofauna in a highly dynamic macrophytodetritus accumulation?
Remy, François ULg; Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Poster (2014, May 06)

Posidonia oceanica is an endemic Mediterranean highly productive seagrass. Depending on the ability of the primary consumers to digest it alive, a generally important part of its foliar primary production ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is an endemic Mediterranean highly productive seagrass. Depending on the ability of the primary consumers to digest it alive, a generally important part of its foliar primary production falls in autumn, to decay inside the meadow or to be exported to sand patches to form “exported litter accumulations”. These accumulations are highly dynamic depending on hydrodynamics and seafloor geomorphology. Literature says that low O2 conditions might occur inside litter accumulations, but the annual oxygen dynamics or its impact on the litter-associated macrofauna has never been measured. We focused on 2 exported litter accumulations in Calvi Bay (Corsica), during 2 years for a total of 8 seasons. For each season, we collected water samples (n=6) from 3 different strata: Water Column (WC), Water Just Above the litter (WJA) and Water Inside the litter (WI). Oxygen was measured for each replicate using a Winkler-based automated routine for oxygen concentration measurements on micro-volumes. At the same time, nutrients concentrations (PO4, NH4, and NO2+NO3) were measured in WC, WJA and WI, but also in the Interstitial Water (IW) using a spectrophotometric continuous flow analyzer (adapted for low nutrients level in an oligotrophic environment). In parallel, macrofaunal (size >500µm) samples (n=3-6) were also collected, counted and identified to the specific level. Our results show significant differences between O2 concentrations/saturation from WI and the two other strata. Significant differences were detected between seasons, sites and years for WI which is the only stratum where really low O2 conditions can be observed. Significant differences were also detected between seasons for both WC and WJA but no differences between sites and years. On the other hand no significant differences were detected between WC and WJA. A similar observation was made for the nutrients at the annual, seasonal and spatial level. Moreover differences are also observed between the nutrients themselves. Our data shows no correlation between WI O2 concentrations and saturation, and global macrofauna abundance or biodiversity. Results are more contrasting at an individual specific level for the 4 most dominant species. For two amphipod species, Gammarella fucicola (55% of the global abundance) and Gammarus aequicauda, no significant correlations were detected between their abundance and O2. For the leptostracan species, Nebalia strausi, a significant negative correlation with O2 concentration was detected. For the last amphipod species, Melita hergensis, a significant positive correlation was observed. Our analyses also show significant correlations between WI O2 concentration/saturation, and WI / IW nutrients concentration. To conclude, this work shows that WI is a very particular and dynamic environment considering O2 concentration and saturation. Low O2 conditions can be observed in WI but never in WC or WJA showing that internal processes and relations with the sediment determine the O2 dynamics in WI and showing a potential “barrier” effect between WI and WC. Moreover O2 dynamics and its consequences may play a role in the nutrients dynamics and cycles. It is clear that faunal responses to low O2 conditions are not identifiable at a global community level. At a specific level, we show a more complex situation: some species do not seem to be impacted by low O2 conditions, but some present a significant positive, or a significant negative response. This shows the existence and complexity of species-dependent low O2 tolerance/adaptation, and the importance of a specific level data analyses to detect responses of dominant litter associated macro- invertebrates to O2 concentration and saturation variations. [less ▲]

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See detailCorsican seagrass detritus: An opportune shelter or a copepod Eldorado?
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Remy, François ULg et al

Poster (2014, March 07)

Seagrass ecosystems are extensive beds of marine flowering plants bordering tropical and temperate coastal regions. They play an important role in maintaining biological productivity and bio-geochemical ... [more ▼]

Seagrass ecosystems are extensive beds of marine flowering plants bordering tropical and temperate coastal regions. They play an important role in maintaining biological productivity and bio-geochemical cycles in the sea and support higher diversity and abundance of fauna in comparison to adjacent non-vegetated areas. The seagrass meadow primary production can be directly consumed through herbivory but the majority of the plant material falls on the sea floor during the autumnal leaf senescence. The leaf litter then degrades within the meadow or accumulates with other micro- and macrophytodetritus to form detritus accumulations on the adjacent non-vegetated sand patches. These exported accumulations are quite dynamic in relation to seafloor geomorphology and local hydrodynamics. Thus, the detritus accumulations are an easily disturbed ephemeral environment with one large influx a year. Consequently the physico-chemical characteristics can change very fast and impact the sheltering capacity and food supply present. Nonetheless, fishes, macrofauna and meiofauna are omnipresent throughout the year. In our study site along the shore of N-W Corsica, Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are characterised by substantial detritus accumulations. The present study aimed to analyse the biodiversity of the copepod species communities (Crustacea, Copepoda) in those detritus accumulations. The results showed that the copepod detritus community consisted of a mixture of species that are also found in adjacent habitats (seagrass meadow, sediment, epilithic habitats, water column). Each adjacent habitat is characterised by organisms that are morphologically adapted to the specific features of that habitat. The majority of copepods are epiphytic (order Harpacticoida), that occur typically on seagrass leaves and macroalgae. Other species are planktonic (orders Cyclopoida and Calanoida) and some were benthic (order Harpacticoida), known from the nearby sediment. A minority of the copepod community were parasitic on fish or invertebrate (order Siphonostomatoida). In order to clarify their origin, we assume that passive transport by currents plays a significant role next to the active migration from the anoxic sediments under the detritus. For sure they also reproduce within the detritus packages as we found many nauplii, copepodites and gravid females. The above mentioned suggestions cannot explain such high density of copepods by themselves. Other attraction mechanisms are needed to explain the important amount of planktonic and epiphytic species with good swimming ability, such as higher food accessibility. In the detritus no plant-defence mechanisms are present anymore and a lot of micro-organisms and thus potential food sources are present. Furthermore, the dense detritus package provides shelter and protection from potential predators. Subsequently we may consider the detritus accumulations as a copepod species-specific opportune Eldorado for sheltering, nursing and feeding. [less ▲]

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See detailFlore et faune de l'estran. Régions de Wimereux (Pas-de-Calais) et de Roscoff (Finistère)
Bussers, Jean-Claude ULg; Jeuniaux, Charles; Thomé, Jean-Pierre ULg et al

Learning material (2014)

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See detailL'arbre du vivant: la faune
Dauby, Patrick ULg; Hindryckx, Marie-Noëlle ULg; Laschet, Mélanie ULg et al

Article for general public (2012)

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See detailL'arbre du vivant: la flore
Dauby, Patrick ULg; Hindryckx, Marie-Noëlle ULg; Laschet, Mélanie ULg et al

Article for general public (2012)

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See detailLeaf fall impact on diversity and trophic ecology of vagile macrofauna associated with exported P.oceanica litter
Remy, François ULg; Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg et al

Poster (2012, August 20)

In the Mediterranean Sea, Posidonia oceanica meadows produce a huge amount of detritus, evaluated up to 300 to 2000 g dry wt m-2 yr-1. This litter is mainly composed of dead leaves but also of uprooted P ... [more ▼]

In the Mediterranean Sea, Posidonia oceanica meadows produce a huge amount of detritus, evaluated up to 300 to 2000 g dry wt m-2 yr-1. This litter is mainly composed of dead leaves but also of uprooted P.oceanica shoots and drift macro-algae from adjacent rocky bottoms. Although rich in refractory materials (lignin) and poor in P and N, these underwater accumulations of leaves are colonised by fungi, micro-algae (like diatoms), bacteria, but also by micro and macrofauna assemblages. These organisms could play an important role in leaf litter degradation and enrichment, but also in energy and carbon transfer from P.oceanica to higher trophic levels in adjacent coastal ecosystems. In this study we focus on the vagile macro-fauna (invertebrates with a size > 500µm) inhabiting the exported litter accumulations of the Calvi Bay (France). We took standardised samples at two different sites (a sheltered one and an exposed one) before and after leaf fall. We emphasised that crustaceans represent 65 – 85% of the biodiversity, followed by annelids and molluscs, representing respectively 10-20% and 10-15% of the diversity. That general pattern differs between sampling sites and we highlighted changes after leaf fall at both sites. In order to assess the impact of the autumn period litter input on the trophic structure of these invertebrates, we conducted gut contents observations and “bulk” stable isotope analysis. The isotopic compositions of C and N stable isotopes of the potential detritic food sources and of the most abundant invertebrate’s species were measured using EA-IRMS. We finally focused on the two most abundant Gammaridean Amphipoda species representing up to about 60% of the vagile macrofauna found in litter accumulations: Gammarella fucicola and Gammarus aequicauda. The results of their isotopic measurements were used in the “SIAR” Bayesian mixing model to calculate the potential contribution of their potential food sources. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic tracers reveal considerable diversity among diets of dominant amphipods from Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dauby, Patrick ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2012, August 20)

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter a high biomass and an important biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate meadows, the amphipods play an important part in the functioning ... [more ▼]

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows shelter a high biomass and an important biodiversity of amphipod crustaceans. In other temperate 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, and little is known about the trophic ecology of amphipods, which are generally regarded as generalist herbivores/detritivores despite the lack of precise studies. Here, we combined gut content examination and trophic markers (fatty acids, stables isotopes of C and N) to delineate the diet of the dominant species of amphipods from Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows and to highlight trophic diversity among this community. Our results indicate that contribution of microepiphytic diatoms and of benthic and suspended particulate organic matter to the diet of amphipods were anecdotal. On the other hand, all dominant species heavily relied on macroalgal epiphytes, suggesting a certain extent of overlapping in the diets of the dominant species. Considerable interspecific differences nonetheless existed, notably concerning grazing preferences towards epiphytes from leaves or litter fragments vs. epiphytes from rhizomes. In addition, the use of the SIAR isotopic mixing model showed that most species had a mixed diet, and relied on several food items. None of the examined species seemed to graze on their seagrass host, but Gammarus aequicauda partly relied on seagrass leaf detritus. Overall, our findings demonstrate that amphipods have the potential to be key-items in trophic and functional interactions occurring among Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows. [less ▲]

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See detailA descriptive study of physico-chemical characteristics of Posidonia oceanica litter accumulation
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg; Darchambeau, François ULg et al

Poster (2012)

The Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow losses every fall the major part of its leaf biomass after senescing. These phytodetritus may decay within the meadow, be buried or be exported to ... [more ▼]

The Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow losses every fall the major part of its leaf biomass after senescing. These phytodetritus may decay within the meadow, be buried or be exported to other habitats. They form large litter accumulations, notably on shallow water sand patches. Such accumulation host many organisms which participate to the degradation of this material. In a first step to understand the dynamics of these accumulations and of their associated biota, we have characterised their physico-chemical heterogeneity at different seasons. We measured the dissolved oxygen, nutrients and sulphide concentrations in interstitial waters from litter accumulations varying regarding their phytodetritus composition, fragmentation level and thickness. Results show that oxygen conditions were highly variable depending on litter thickness but also on local hydrodynamics. Anoxic conditions and presence of sulphide were sometimes measured, particularly in very thick litter or in degraded litter at the end of summer. Colonies of sulphur-oxidising bacteria were observed. Litter accumulations were also often enriched in ammonium and, sometimes, in dissolved phosphorus. It is not clear whether this results from the litter degradation within the accumulation or whether this is a consequence of a barrier effect between sediment and water column. Nevertheless, this makes litter accumulations particularly attractive for micro-phytobenthic producers. Litter accumulations appear as key habitats both to understand the dead-face of seagrass dynamics and its consequence for C cycle in coastal areas and to study the consequence of hypoxia on biodiversity in a natural context. [less ▲]

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See detailBIANZO II: Biodiversity of three representative groups of the Antarctic Zoobenthos - Coping with Change
Ingels, Jeroen; Vanreusel, Ann; De Broyer, Claude et al

Report (2012)

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See detailOrganisms as ecosystems engineers: the case of amphipod grazers from Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg; Schnitzler, Joseph ULg; Dupont, Alessandra et al

Poster (2011, February 25)

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean Sea, and is able to form large monospecific areas, called meadows. These meadows shelter high biomasses and biodiversities of amphipod crustaceans. Moreover, It is now established that several species of these amphipods feed on the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Here, we performed in situ experiments to assess whether this grazing activity could impact the dynamics of the leaves’ epiphytic cover, and thus influence the functioning of the meadow as an ecosystem. We used microcosms containing monospecific populations of 3 amphipods taxa (Apherusa chiereghinii, Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp.), and placed them directly in the meadow, at a depth of 10m. Biomasses of erected macroalgae and erected animals (hydrozoans, bryozoans) were lower in all grazed treatments. However, none of the studied taxa seemed to consume encrusting epiphytes, either vegetal or animal. This selective grazing pressure by amphipods may release encrusting epiphytes from competition for space, light and/or nutriments with the fast-growing erected algae, and could thus play an important role in the structuring of the epiphytic cover from P. oceanica leaves. Moreover, this top-down control might keep erected algae biomass to a normal, sustainable level, therefore also benefiting the seagrass itself. Our results also indicate that amphipod trophic activity caused nitrogen enrichment in both grazed (erected algae) and non-grazed (encrusting algae & seagrass leaves) vegetal tissues. A plausible interpretation could be that sloppy feeding and excretion by the grazers enhanced availability of this nutrient, which is typically limiting for photosynthesis in shallow P. oceanica meadows. This emphasizes the fact that grazing is not a simple negative interaction, but that it can also benefit the primary producers. Our results thus indicate that amphipods from P. oceanica meadows seem to be bound to the epiphytic cover of the leaves by complex and multilateral trophic interactions, and have an indirect influence on the seagrass itself. Amphipods may therefore play an important part in the functioning of the epiphyte/seagrass/grazer system of these meadows, and thus act as ecosystems engineers. This abstract is dedicated to the freshly born Adèle and Côme. [less ▲]

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See detailThe role of meiofauna in energy transfer in a Mediterranean seagrass bed (Calvi, Corsica)
MASCART, THIBAUD; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg et al

Poster (2010, October 22)

Meiofaunal communities of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass, Posidonia oceanica, were sampled in five different habitats characterised by different degradation level of macrophytodetritus. In term of ... [more ▼]

Meiofaunal communities of the endemic Mediterranean seagrass, Posidonia oceanica, were sampled in five different habitats characterised by different degradation level of macrophytodetritus. In term of abundance, harpacticoid copepods represent half of the community followed by nematodes and polychaetes. Two meiofauna communities were distinguished: (1) a benthic community of meiofauna, living in the sediment or on highly fragmented macrophytodetritus, and (2) a foliar, epiphytal community associated with seagrass leaves and low fragmented macrophytodetritus leaves. They differed significantly in their harpacticoid copepod family composition. The benthic community consisted mainly of families like Tisbidae and Miraciidae, while the epiphytal community was dominated by families like Thalestridae and Laophontidae. These differences in composition may also imply a differential functional diversity. Trophic biomarkers (stable isotopes, fatty acids) were used to identify the major sources of organic matter contributing to the copepods diet and hence to gain insight in the overall carbon flux. Harpacticoid copepods showed preferences to feed upon the epiphytal biofilm community composed of bacteria, diatoms, fungi and microalgae. Copepods used the seagrass and detritus material merely as substrate, but were attracted to the biofilm rather than the plant material which is rich in structural carbohydrates difficult to assimilate by animals (i.e. lignin, cellulose, ...). Since harpacticoid copepods showed to use different sources of carbon, unravelling the contribution of each of them and the role of the degradation level of the detritus for food selectivity is the next step forward. [less ▲]

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See detailImpact of grazing by amphipods on the epiphytic cover of the Posidonia oceanica leaves: an in situ experiment.
Michel, Loïc ULg; Dupont, Alessandra; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2010, October 22)

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Moreover, under controlled ... [more ▼]

It is now established that several species of amphipods associated to Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows consume the macro-epiphytes present on the leaves of the seagrass. Moreover, under controlled in vitro conditions, three amphipod taxa (Apherusa chiereghinii,Dexamine spiniventris and Gammarus spp.) are able to drastically deplete the biomass of erected algae, thus influencing the epiphytic cover in both a quantitative and a qualitative way. Here, we tried to assess whether this strong and complex trophic interaction was realized in the field. We designed an in situ experiment that used microcosms placed directly in the meadow, at a depth of 10m, to estimate the impact of grazing by the aforementioned amphipod taxa on the dynamics of the epiphytic cover. Both Gammarus spp. and Dexamine spiniventris caused a significant decrease of the biomass of erected algae and erected animals (bryozoans and hydrozoans). Impact of grazing by Apherusa chiereghinii on these two epiphytic groups was less important, although strong but marginally non-significant (0,1>p>0,05) trends to lower biomasses were present. None of the considered taxa seemed to consume encrusting macro-epiphytes. In addition, assimilation of epiphyte-derived carbon and nitrogen by grazers was monitored using stable isotopes (13C and 15N), and epiphyte elemental content (C & N) was measured. Our 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 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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