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See detailCharacterization, dynamics and trophic ecology of macrofauna associated to seagrass macrophytodetritus accumulations (Calvi Bay, Mediterranean Sea)
Remy, François ULg

Doctoral thesis (2016)

Posidonia oceanica meadows are a major coastal Mediterranean ecosystem. Although highly productive this Mediterranean marine flower plant is not much consumed by herbivore organisms. During autumnal ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica meadows are a major coastal Mediterranean ecosystem. Although highly productive this Mediterranean marine flower plant is not much consumed by herbivore organisms. During autumnal senescence, most (up to 90%) of the foliar primary production of P. oceanica ends in the “detrital compartment”. These dead leaves, also called “macrophytodetritus”, begin to degrade immediately inside the meadow, but a large amount will be rapidly exported to adjacent unvegetated accumulation zones, such as bare sand patches. Associated to drift macroalgae, living detached P. oceanica shoots, micro-organisms and fine sediment, these macrophytoderitus form what we call “exported P. oceanica litter”. This exported litter is a highly dynamic habitat for a whole community of invertebrates: meiofauna (38µm < size < 500µm) and macrofauna (size ≥ 500µm) on which we focused on. This dynamic nature of exported litter could play a major structuring role in terms of abundance, diversity and trophic ecology of this vagile macrofauna community at a seasonal, annual or spatial scale, but also during stochastic, brief and very strong perturbations: resource pulses. In this context, this PhD Thesis had 7 main objectives: i. Characterize for the first time exhaustively the macrofauna community. ii. Evaluate the spatiotemporal changes occurring at two different time scales in the detritus themselves and in the macrofauna community. iii. Relating these variations with measured environmental parameters. iv. Experimentally demonstrate the stratification occurring in a stable P. oceanica litter accumulation and the impact of this stratification on environmental conditions and on the macrofauna. v. Experimentally demonstrate the impact of resource pulses on the exported P. oceanica litter macrofauna community. vi. Unravel for the first time the global P. oceanica litter macrofauna food web using gut contents examinations and stable isotopes (C and N). vii. Evaluate the spatiotemporal changes of diet preferences of this community and determine if the observed changes are really synonym of true diet changes. This PhD Thesis demonstrated that exported P. oceanica litter was mainly composed of dead P. oceanica leaves (70-80%). It followed the natural annual cycle of P. oceanica and presented a maximum abundance in autumn just after leaves senescence. Measured environmental parameters also showed important variations linked to different factors such as force and direction of the wind, litter abundance and probably temperature. The continuous presence of the vagile macrofauna community throughout the year was demonstrated as well. This community was composed of 115 species and largely dominated by arthropods (77%), followed by annelids (12%) and mollusks (7%), while other taxa were much more anecdotal. Even if diversity is quite important, only a few species dominate largely the community. Indeed, 19 species represent more than 90% of the total abundance. One species to keep in mind: Gammarella fucicola, the most typical dominant and abundant amphipod species, representing 40-50% of the total abundance. In addition to this general pattern, litter vagile macrofauna presented important seasonal and annual variations. In the case of several species, these variations could be linked to some measured environmental parameters, but we had to recognize that most species did not seem to be influenced by environmental parameters measured during this PhD. However, oxygen concentration was the most important environmental parameter, potentially influencing 7 of the 19 most dominant and abundant species. The experimentally demonstrated physico-chemical stratification occurring inside litter accumulations was strongly related to this oxygen parameter. Indeed we demonstrated that several species were distributed in the different layers of a litter accumulation according to oxygen concentration and to a lesser extent, to nutrients concentration (mostly NH4). Besides, smaller time scale sampling allowed the identification of several stormy events corresponding to the definition of resource pulses. These pulses were demonstrated to play a potentially important role on the structure of the macrofauna community, favoring importantly the detritivore species and hypoxia tolerant species. It was also demonstrated that resource pulses could induce diet switching increasing the consumption of dead P. oceanica leaves just after the events, potentially increasing the litter decomposition by the macrofauna. The trophic web described in this PhD Thesis was composed of several trophic levels, from the primary herbivore/detritivore consumer, to second order carnivore predators. Different dietary preferences were highlighted, but major information was that dead P. oceanica leaves were ingested by a majority (85%) of the sampled species. Moreover, stable isotope analysis confirmed that P. oceanica litter was assimilated by most primary consumers and this “detrital signal” could be identified to the upper trophic levels, which is an argument in favor of the importance of macrofauna as major dead P. oceanica leaves decomposers. This also highlighted their potential role in terms of organic matter transfer from the P. oceanica meadow itself to the Mediterranean coastal food webs. Seasonal variations were observed in terms of trophic niches, and SIAR mixing model confirmed that this variability was sometimes caused by real diet modifications, potentially linked to the variable availability of food sources. This PhD Thesis, combining standardized sampling at two different time scales, trophic web analysis (gut contents and stable isotopes) and original experimentation allowed us to describe a diverse and abundant macrofauna community associated to P. oceanica exported litter, its temporal variations, potential responses to resource pulses as well as the link existing between some species and measured environmental parameters. This PhD also described the food web of this community and demonstrated the importance of dead P. oceanica leaves as food source for many invertebrates composing this community. These invertebrates thus seemed to play an important role in both litter decomposition and organic matter flux from the P. oceanica meadow to the Mediterranean coastal food webs. [less ▲]

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See detailThe secret life of a Mediterranean seagrass litter macrofauna community : a history of oxygen
Remy, François ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Sturaro, Nicolas ULg et al

Conference (2016, February 12)

Most of the foliar primary production of Posidonia oceanica, a major Mediterranean seagrass, sheds in autumn and is exported from the meadow to adjacent areas to form "Exported Macrophytodetritus ... [more ▼]

Most of the foliar primary production of Posidonia oceanica, a major Mediterranean seagrass, sheds in autumn and is exported from the meadow to adjacent areas to form "Exported Macrophytodetritus Accumulations", EMAs. These EMAs are a habitat, shelter and feeding place for an abundant and diverse community of macrofauna. Being very dynamic places and potentially playing a role of transition compartment between water column and sediment, EMAs present high variability in term of physicochemical conditions and more specifically in term of oxygen concentration. Mild to severe hypoxic periods (2 - 0.01 mL O2.L-1) can be observed in situ at different moments of the year, and this variability thus potentially play a structuring role on the macrofauna community. During this study, our main specific questions were (1) Does oxygen stratification occur inside EMAs? (2) If present, how long does it take to observe this stratification? (3) Is the macrofauna impacted and do the dominant species occupy defined positions inside the different micro-habitats? To assess the importance of this impact, an experimental study was conducted in October 2014 near the STARESO oceanographic station (Calvi, Corsica) using an original "layer-sampling" design. The experimental construction was put underwater inside an EMA for 48 hours at a depth of 8m. Samples were collected (N=8) in a 20cm thick EMA using "sealed" boxes to sample every 5cm, from the sediment, to the water column. Oxygen, nutrients and of course the litter itself (containing the macrofauna) were sampled carefully to make sure no exchange occurred between the 4 different layers. After data analysis, the assessment was clear: oxygen stratification occurred in less than 48h and oxygen level inside the layer close to the sediment experienced a fast decrease below the hypoxia threshold (2 mL O2.L-1). Diversity was highly impacted, showing a clear positive link with oxygen concentration. Macrofauna also appeared to follow this oxygen stratification but this response was very species specific. Some species didn't follow oxygen and are present in every layer and most of them were strongly positively linked to oxygen concentration. But a few (Nebalia strausi and Athanas nitescens) were strongly negatively linked to oxygen concentration and were present only in the more hypoxic layers. This experimentation thus confirmed our in situ observations. Oxygen stratification occurred quickly (< 48h) when EMAs were experiencing calm weather. This stratification observed from the water column to the sediment was very marked. Diversity and abundance of most abundant macrofauna species were drastically influenced by this stratification, showing the importance of these micro-habitats in structuring of this macrofauna community. [less ▲]

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See detailTrophic diversity of seagrass detritus copepods: A consequence of species-specific specialization or a random diet?
Mascart, Thibaud; De Troch, Marleen; Remy, François ULg et al

in PeerJ PrePrints (2016, January 13), 4

One of the major ecological research questions is understanding how biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning. Unravelling interspecific feeding preferences of organisms with overlapping trophic ... [more ▼]

One of the major ecological research questions is understanding how biodiversity influences ecosystem functioning. Unravelling interspecific feeding preferences of organisms with overlapping trophic niches will give part of the answer. Subsequently, the present study displays the trophic diversity of a benthic copepod community in a North-Western Corsican Posidonia oceanica seagrass ecosystem. These seagrass meadows are often interrupted by bare sand patches serving as deposition area for loose detritus. The accumulated macrophytodetritus, mainly derived from senescent macrophytes, harbour a diverse community of Harpacticoida (Crustacea, Copepoda). The most abundant copepods (i.e. three harpacticoids and one calanoid, belonging to different eco-morphological types) and their potential food sources (i.e. macrophytodetritus, epiphytic biofilm and suspended organic matter) were analysed for stable isotope ratios (δ13C, δ15N) and total lipids content. The results revealed a harpacticoid copepod feeding preference towards the epiphytic biofilm, while calanoid copepods preferred suspended organic matter. Additionally, a species-specific composition variation revealed finer partitioning of food resources (e.g. different micro-organisms present in the biofilm like bacteria, diatoms, fungi) over time.In conclusion, results showed species-specific food preferences, resulting in trophic niche and resource partitioning. Every eco-morphological type seems to cope in different ways with temporal fluctuations of food sources to comply with their nutritional needs. This illustrates the high resilience of the copepod community present in macrophytodetritus accumulations. Moreover, our results underlined the importance of multiple biomarker species-specific analysis in trophic ecology studies, especially in complex and dynamic environments offering numerous food items to consumers. [less ▲]

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

in Marine Ecology (2016)

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

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

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

Conference (2015, May 20)

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

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

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

Conference (2015, April 02)

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

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

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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 detailHow do harpacticoid copepods colonize detrital seagrass leaves?
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Agusto, Laura; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

in Marine Biology (2015), 162(5), 929-943

An experiment was carried out investigating the colonization ability and specific pattern of copepods towards a provisional benthic habitat. Since copepods are known to disperse passively and actively ... [more ▼]

An experiment was carried out investigating the colonization ability and specific pattern of copepods towards a provisional benthic habitat. Since copepods are known to disperse passively and actively, the experiment aimed to investigate the pool of colonizers of macrophytodetritus and the species-specific active colonization pathways. The experiment was performed in a Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica meadow on defaunated macrophytodetritus accumulations (mainly dead seagrass leaves) for two time intervals (24 h and 96 h). Active colonization by copepods, independently of their adjacent potential source pool habitat (bare sandy sediments, P. oceanica canopy, water column and macrophytodetritus) occurred within 24 h. Natural densities (as in the control treatments) were only reached by active colonization through the water column. Both neither diversities nor species composition of natural macrophytodetritus were ever reached by one single migratory pathway, therefore only a combination of interstitial migration and water column migration can explain the species occurrence under natural condition. Moreover, every potential adjacent source pool habitat, contributed species to the newly colonized macrophytodetritus. However, the main colonizers were mostly species with good swimming capabilities. The diverse pool of species present in the newly colonized macrophytodetritus underlines the complex communities and dispersion capabilities of copepods. Hence, macrophytodetritus possesses the potential ability to be a colonizer source pool for every adjacent habitat and thus behaves as a copepod hub for the entire seagrass ecosystem. [less ▲]

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See detailSeasonal variability of meiofauna, especially harpacticoid copepods, in Posidonia oceanica macrophytodetritus accumulations
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Deschoemaeker, Silke et al

in Journal of Sea Research (2015), 95

The overall aim of this study was (1) to assess the diversity and density of meiofauna taxa, especially harpacticoid copepod species, present within accumulated seagrass macrophytodetritus on unvegetated ... [more ▼]

The overall aim of this study was (1) to assess the diversity and density of meiofauna taxa, especially harpacticoid copepod species, present within accumulated seagrass macrophytodetritus on unvegetated sand patches and (2) to elucidate the community structure of detritus-associated harpacticoid copepods in relation to natural temporal variability of physico-chemical characteristics of accumulations. This was investigated in a Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile seagrass ecosystem in the northwest Mediterranean Sea (Bay of Calvi, Corsica, 42°35’N, 8°43’E) using a triplicate macrophytodetritus core field sampling in two contrasting sites over the four seasons of 2011. Meiofauna higher taxa consisted of 50% Copepoda, which 87% belonged to the Harpacticoida order. Nematoda was the second most abundant taxa. The copepod community displayed a wide variety of morphologically similar and ecologically different species (i.e. mesopsammic, phytal, phytal-swimmers, planktonic and parasitic). The harpacticoid copepod community followed a strong seasonal pattern with highest abundances and species diversity in May-August, revealing a link with the leaf litter epiphyte primary production cycle. Aside from the important role in sheltering, housing and feeding potential of macrophytodetritus, a harpacticoid community BEST analysis demonstrated a positive correlation with habitat complexity and a negative correlation with water movements and P. oceanica leaf litter accumulation. [less ▲]

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See detailWhen microplastic is not plastic: the ingestion of artificial cellulose fibers by macrofauna living in seagrass macro-phytodetritus.
Remy, François ULg; Collard, France ULg; Gilbert, Bernard ULg et al

in Environmental Science & Technology (2015), 49

Dead leaves of the Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, in the Mediterranean coastal zone, are colonized by an abundant “detritivorous” invertebrate community that is heavily predated by fishes ... [more ▼]

Dead leaves of the Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile, in the Mediterranean coastal zone, are colonized by an abundant “detritivorous” invertebrate community that is heavily predated by fishes. This community was sampled in August 2011, November 2011 and March 2012 at two different sites in the Calvi Bay (Corsica). Ingested artificial fibers (AFs) of various sizes and colors were found in 27.6% of the digestive tracts of the nine dominant species regardless of their trophic level or taxon. No seasonal, spatial, size or species-specific significant differences were revealed; suggesting that invertebrates ingest AFs at constant rates. Results showed that, in the gut contents of invertebrates, varying by trophic level, and across trophic levels, the overall ingestion of AFs was low (approximately 1 fiber per organism). Raman spectroscopy revealed that the ingested AFs were composed of viscose, an artificial, cellulose-based polymer. Most of these AFs also appeared to have been colored by industrial dyes. Two dyes were identified: Direct Blue 22 and Direct Red 28. The latter is known for being carcinogenic for vertebrates, potentially causing environmental problems for the P. oceanica litter community. Techniques such as Raman spectroscopy are necessary to investigate the particles composition, instead of relying on fragment size or color to identify the particles ingested by animals. [less ▲]

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See detailColonization of a new habitat by copepods: An in situ experiment
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Biondo, Renzo ULg et al

Conference (2014, December 12)

Colonization of new habitats by a biological community is conspicuous and this dynamic process is one of the architectural forces of the biogeographical distribution we know today. Within the meiofauna ... [more ▼]

Colonization of new habitats by a biological community is conspicuous and this dynamic process is one of the architectural forces of the biogeographical distribution we know today. Within the meiofauna (<1mm), copepods (Crustacea) have successfully adapted to nearly every ecosystem and heir colonization power of permanent habitats is therefore well-established. However, few studies tackled the colonization of new naturally occurring provisional habitats, which are of ecological interest since they are rich in organic material, structurally complex and devoted of native fauna. Hence, the present study investigated the copepod colonization of provisional macrophytodetritus (mainly composed of senescent leaves and drift macroalgae) accumulated on bare sand patches inside a Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow. General motive of colonization such as food and shelter are well-defined. However, little is known regarding the mode of the colonization and source pool of the associated colonists. Here, an in situ experiment was deployed in order to understand the mode of copepod’s colonization to fauna deprived macrophytodetritus. The objectives were: (1) assessing the adjacent colonist’s source pool (i.e. sediment, water column or P. oceanica canopy), (2) investigating the speed of settlement and (3) quantifying the species composition of the colonizing copepods. In summary: (1) species from every source pool actively colonized the macrophytodetritus through the water column and through the sediment-macrophytodetritus interface. (2) The initial settlement occurred within the first 24 hours. (3) The species composition showed to be different than the source’s composition. After 24h, the composition was similar to 45% of the P. oceanica, 28% of the water column and 25% of the sediments. After 96h, the composition was similar to 24% of the P. oceanica, 13% of the water column and 10% of the sediments. Indicating an evolution towards a macrophytodetritus copepod specific community composed of a mixture of the adjacent habitats first colonizers. [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 detailWhen microplastic is not microplastic: ingestion of artificial cellulose fibers by macrofauna living in seagrass macrophytodetritus
Collard, France ULg; Remy, François ULg; Gilbert, Bernard ULg et al

Poster (2014, December 12)

Vagile macroinvertebrates associated with Posidonia oceanica exported litter were sampled in August 2011, November 2011 and March 2012 in the Calvi Bay (Corsica), near the STARESO oceanographic station ... [more ▼]

Vagile macroinvertebrates associated with Posidonia oceanica exported litter were sampled in August 2011, November 2011 and March 2012 in the Calvi Bay (Corsica), near the STARESO oceanographic station. Contents of digestive tracts were analyzed and fibers of various sizes and colors were found. Fibers were found in 27.6% of the digestive tracts in the nine dominant species. No correlation was found between number of fibers and taxonomic or trophic level. There were no seasonal or spatial preferences and thus we hypothesize that the organisms ingest these fibers randomly throughout the year. Analyses performed with a Raman spectroscope showed that these fibers were composed of cellulose associated with a coloring agent following the fiber color. Red fibers were dyed with the Direct Red 28, blue fibers were dyed with Direct Blue 22. Analyses by a scanning electron microscope (SEM) showed that cellulose fibers had the particular morphology of artificial cellulose fibers called: viscose. Our SEM analyses were compared to literature. This comparison assessed that fibers found in digestive tracts were made of viscose. In a first approach, viscose fibers looked like microplastic fibers because of their color and shape. However, it appeared that these fibers were made of artificial cellulose which is very different than plastic in terms of impacts and fate in the organisms. This study highlights the importance of physico-chemical analyses such as Raman spectroscopy and SEM to certainly identify the composition of particles ingested by organisms. From an ecological point of view, the red coloring agent is known to be carcinogenic in mammals and fish. Consequently, this pollution could provoke an environmental problem for the P. oceanica litter vagile macrofauna. [less ▲]

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See detailApplications of stable isotopes in trophic ecology and ecotoxicology
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Remy, François ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

Scientific conference (2014, September 19)

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See detailTurnover rates of carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes in the amphipod Gammarus aequicauda: insights for trophic studies of Mediterranean macrophytodetritus accumulation.
Remy, François ULg; Melchior, Aurélie; Darchambeau, François ULg et al

Conference (2014, August 04)

A quite diverse and abundant macrofauna assemblage is found in the Mediterranean Sea in exported Posidonia oceanica macrophytodétritus accumulations along with meiofauna, microalgae, fungi and bacteria ... [more ▼]

A quite diverse and abundant macrofauna assemblage is found in the Mediterranean Sea in exported Posidonia oceanica macrophytodétritus accumulations along with meiofauna, microalgae, fungi and bacteria. This study focused on a dominant vagile macroinvertebrate species living and feeding in exported dead P.oceanica leaves litter from Calvi Bay (Corsica, France): Gammarus aequicauda. Results of gut content observations and stable isotope analysis (SIAR data) showed clearly that G. aequicauda is the most important dead P. oceanica consumer with up to 50% of dead leaves contribution. An isotopic turnover experiment was conducted with 3 controlled simultaneous treatments: 1. amphipod feeding for 43 days, 2. Green algae feeding for 30 days and 3. Posidonia oceanica litter feeding for 30 days. Individuals (n = 12 to 16) have been sampled every 7 days and whole individual stable isotope analysis have been conducted. An exponential decay regression model and calculations resulted in half-lives for C ranging from 11.72 days (treatment 1) to 51.62 days (treatment 3). Treatment 2 data did not allow us to fit a curve, consequence of a potentially very low turnover rate. For N, no significant increase or decrease of the δ15N values have been observed, and we thus concluded that δ15N was at the equilibrium from the beginning to the end of the experiment. It appears that amphipods feeding on low quality food (high to very high C/N ratio) like algae and Neptune grass dead leaves, show a lower turnover rate for C than amphipods feeding on a high quality animal food (low C/N ratio). Carbon and Nitrogen stable isotope “Trophic Enrichment Factor” (TEF) were calculated for treatments where δ13C or δ15N were at the equilibrium at the end of the experiment. Calculated TEF for nitrogen ranged from 0.53‰ ± 0.439 to 0.96‰ ± 0.424 for treatment 2 and 3 (consistent with detritus-feeder invertebrate values) and was 2.91‰ ± 0.558 for treatment 1 (consistent with predator invertebrate values). For C calculations, a TEF of 0,81‰± 0.39 for treatment 1 and a TEF of 1.19‰ ± 0.824 for treatment 3 were calculated. [less ▲]

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See detailFeeding ecology of harpacticoid copepod species: Insights from stable isotopes analysis and fatty acid profiling
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; De Troch, Marleen; Remy, François ULg et al

Conference (2014, August 04)

Understanding how biodiversity influence ecosystem functioning is a major research question in current ecology research. Trophic diversity within communities strongly affects ecosystem functioning through ... [more ▼]

Understanding how biodiversity influence ecosystem functioning is a major research question in current ecology research. Trophic diversity within communities strongly affects ecosystem functioning through trophic interactions between species. Various studies tackled ecosystem functioning via interactions between trophic guilds such as bottom-up and top-down control. However, few studies focussed on interspecific variability in the feeding ecology of organisms with overlapping trophic niche. Here, we in a North-Western Corsican Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow and its variability over one year. The extensive P. oceanica meadows are occasionally interrupted by bare sand patches which serve as deposition and accumulation area for detritus, mainly derived from senescent macrophytes. These macrophytodetritus accumulation harbour a diverse community of Harpacticoida (Crustacea, Copepoda). The most abundant harpacticoids and their potential food sources (i.e. macrophytodetritus, epiphytic biofilm, macroalgae and particulate matter) were analysed for stable isotope ratios (δ13C, δ15N). Bayesian mixing model (SIAR) showed a minor contribution of macrophytodetritus while the epiphytic biofilm, present on the macrophytodetritus, appeared to be the major food source of harpacticoid copepods. In order to distinguish the several components of the epiphytic biofilm and their contribution, fatty acid profiling was used. The outcome revealed a general harpacticoid diet preference towards diatoms and bacteria, however specialisation for certain components seemed to reduce competition between harpacticoid species. In conclusion, our results underline the importance of multiple biomarker species-specific analysis, especially in complex and dynamic environments where a wide variety of potential trophic niches are present. [less ▲]

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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 detailHypoxia in macrophytodetritus accumulation: Species specific harpacticoid copepod adaptation?
Mascart, Thibaud ULg; De Troch, Marleen; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

Poster (2014, May 05)

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows generate high primary production and support large biodiversity of associated fauna and flora. The majority of the foliar material falls on the ... [more ▼]

Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows generate high primary production and support large biodiversity of associated fauna and flora. The majority of the foliar material falls on the unvegetated sea floor during the autumnal leaf senescence, fuelling the detrital food web. Whilst laying on the sea floor the freshly formed macrophytodetritus pile up into accumulations according to the local hydrodynamics and seafloor geomorphology. In these litter accumulations, harpacticoid copepods (Crustacea, Copepoda) are the main meiofaunal players (metazoans in the size range of 38µm – 1mm) and show a high specific diversity. They are primarily grazers, but their high specific diversity suggests that they occupy also a large variety of trophic niches. This large morphological and trophic diversity can partly be promoted by the complexity of the phytodetritus in seagrass accumulations. On the other hand, macrophytodetritus degradation and flux of reduced compounds from the sediments is responsible for oxygen consumption inside the accumulation of seagrass litter. Therefore, concentration of oxygen inside the accumulation is very variable and often under the concentration observed in the water column just above the litter. Frequently, oxygen levels reach very low values. The present study aims to link the oxygen variability inside the accumulation to the densities of the five most dominant harpacticoid copepods found living in the P. oceanica litter. Standardized samples were collected seasonally in two contrasting sites of the Calvi Bay (Corsica) during one year. Our results showed no correlation between the oxygen concentrations and harpacticoid community diversity or their total abundances. The five most dominant species showed divergent results, but none had a clear correlation with the oxygen concentration. This contrasts with observation done for sediment meiofaunal community where most harpacticoid copepods are sensitive to oxygen level and where nematodes often dominate the community. This could be explained by their high mobility and the patchiness and variability of the oxygen concentrations present in the accumulations. Harpacticoid copepods, whilst being sensitive to hypoxia and anoxia developed a strategy to live in this fast oxygen changing environment. To conclude, our results underline the importance of species-specific analysis of correlation data. Especially in complex and dynamic environments where a variety of potential trophic niches are present and species competition is very likely to occur. The overall abundance pattern and diversity of the copepod community showed no relation to the oxygen concentration while the most abundant copepod species did not responded to fluctuating oxygen concentrations. [less ▲]

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See detailEvaluation of the relationships between characteristics of the vertebral column of different cetaceans and their ecology: A preliminary study.
Gillet, Amandine ULg; Ninane, Catherine ULg; Remy, François ULg et al

Poster (2014, April)

Ecomorphology is the study of the relationships between functional design and the environment. One of its aims is to understand how the environmental factors can constraint the performance of an organism ... [more ▼]

Ecomorphology is the study of the relationships between functional design and the environment. One of its aims is to understand how the environmental factors can constraint the performance of an organism or act on its phenotype. Different studies have already showed in different cetaceans that the number and shape of vertebrae can reflect the stiffness of the body and consequently can impact their swimming mode. The aim of this preliminary study is to establish relationships between characteristics of the vertebral column of different cetaceans and their ecology. To this purpose, we have studied meristic and morphometric data on the vertebrae (centrum length, height and width, neural and haemal spine height and the transverse process length) of different species of mysticetes and odontocetes coming from the Aquarium-Museum of Liège and Royal Institute of Natural Sciences of Bruxelles. Preliminary results showed the distinction of three morphotypes: firstly, the active, cruising, fast swimmers with rigid body, secondly, the maneuverers, slow swimmers with flexible body and thirdly, the steady swimmers. [less ▲]

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