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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 detailMultiscale variability of amphipod assemblages in Posidonia oceanica meadows
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Vermeulen, Simon et al

in Journal of Sea Research (2015), 95

The study of spatial patterns is of ecological importance in order to understand the causes of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and it also provides valuable basis for management and ... [more ▼]

The study of spatial patterns is of ecological importance in order to understand the causes of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and it also provides valuable basis for management and conservation. Amphipod crustaceans are key organisms in seagrass ecosystems. However, little attention has been paid to the spatial scales at which amphipod assemblages may vary. We examined variability patterns of amphipod populations inhabiting Posidonia oceanica meadows, over spatial scales spanning four orders of magnitude (1 to 1000 metres) and for two consecutive years. This study reports the scales that contributed most to spatial variation of amphipod assemblages and explores the potential processes of the observed patterns, with particular emphasis on habitat features. The number of species, the diversity and the density of some species, exhibited high variation across years. Most species showed the highest spatial variation in density and biomass at small scales (~1 and 10 m). Based on density data, the structure of amphipod assemblages did not differ at any scales investigated. The patchiness that occurred at small scales may have been only weakly related to habitat features. Instead, we postulated that behavioural processes of amphipods were likely good explanatory factors. Although, the small scale spatial variability can be an important feature of amphipod assemblages in P. oceanica meadows, many patterns probably remained undetected as they may occur at scales smaller than those investigated. [less ▲]

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See detailAre amphipods influenced by Posidonia oceanica seagrass features?
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

Poster (2014, December 12)

In the Mediterranean Sea, the seagrass Posidonia oceanica plays an important role as habitat for invertebrates, among which amphipod crustaceans represent a dense and diverse assemblage. Recent studies ... [more ▼]

In the Mediterranean Sea, the seagrass Posidonia oceanica plays an important role as habitat for invertebrates, among which amphipod crustaceans represent a dense and diverse assemblage. Recent studies have observed that amphipod density and biomass vary significantly on small spatial scales. This patchiness may be caused by different factors, such as recruitment, competition, and predation; however, habitat features, resulting in availability of resources such as food or shelter, may also be important in structuring these assemblages. This study examined the relationships between amphipod and habitat features in a P. oceanica meadow of the Revellata Bay (Corsica). The sampling was carried out in a continuous meadow colonizing soft substrates at constant depth in August 2008. We quantified the density and biomass of each amphipod species, as well as habitat features, namely shoot density, leaf and epiphyte biomasses, percentage of leaves per shoot having alteration marks and litter biomass. Using multiple regression analyses, few weak significant relationships were identified between amphipod and habitat features. The number of species and the diversity appeared unaffected by the measured habitat features. In contrast, total amphipod density and biomass were generally positively related to the shoot density and epiphyte biomass of P. oceanica, respectively. Overall, habitat features accounted for 0-30% of the variation in the densities of the amphipod species. A distance-based linear model explained a total of 25.8% of the variation of the amphipod assemblages (of which 18.6% was explained by litter biomass). Amphipods are therefore influenced by some P. oceanica features, but only weakly. Furthermore, some features appeared to influence individual species whereas others functioned at the assemblage level. The main challenge remains in evaluating the scale at which these features act and the way in which they influence the structure of assemblages. [less ▲]

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See detailAbstract Book of ZOOLOGY 2014, 21st Benelux Congress of Zoology
Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Schnitzler, Joseph ULg et al

Book published by Royal Belgian Zoological Society (2014)

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See detailSeagrass amphipod assemblages in a Mediterranean marine protected area: a multiscale approach
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Pérez-Perera, Amanda et al

in Marine Ecology. Progress Series (2014), 506

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key tool for conservation purposes, but few studies have assessed the responses of small macrozoobenthic assemblages to different protection levels in the Mediterranean ... [more ▼]

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key tool for conservation purposes, but few studies have assessed the responses of small macrozoobenthic assemblages to different protection levels in the Mediterranean Sea. In this study, we used a hierarchical sampling design spanning three orders of magnitude (1-10-100 metres) to investigate whether a marine protected area exerts an effect on amphipod assemblages associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows. This study reports spatial and temporal variability patterns of amphipod assemblages in four different protection levels and discusses potential confounding effects, such as habitat features. The structure of amphipod assemblages based on density data was patchy at all spatial scales investigated, but differed markedly among protection levels. Among outstanding points, multiscale analyses showed that lower densities and/or biomasses of several taxa occurred within fully protected and external areas in comparison with partially protected areas (PPAs). Furthermore, Posidonia oceanica meadow features (shoot density, leaf and epiphyte biomasses, coefficient A and litter biomass) accounted for only a low proportion of the total variability. We can consequently infer that the observed patchiness is likely to occur for multiple and interconnected reasons, ranging from the ecological and behavioural traits of amphipod species to protection-dependent processes (e.g. fish predation). Long term multiscale spatial and temporal monitoring, as well as experimental manipulations, are clearly needed to fully understand the effects of protection on macrozoobenthic assemblages. [less ▲]

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See detailProtection effects or natural variability? The case of seagrass amphipods
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Pérez-Perera, Amanda et al

Conference (2013, October)

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See detailSocio-ecological study of recreational boating in a Mediterranean marine protected area
Pérez-Perera, Amanda; Panzalis, Pier; Navone, Augusto et al

Poster (2012, November)

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See detailA new species of Caprella (Crustacea: Amphipoda) from the Mediterranean Sea
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Guerra-García, José Manuel

in Helgoland Marine Research (2012)

A new caprellid amphipod, Caprella tavolarensis n. sp., is described based on specimens collected from a Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow at the Tavolara- Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area ... [more ▼]

A new caprellid amphipod, Caprella tavolarensis n. sp., is described based on specimens collected from a Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadow at the Tavolara- Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area (Sardinia, Mediterranean Sea). The species is close to Caprella liparotensis, but can be clearly distinguished by smaller size, presence of a short rostrum, body elongate and dorsally smooth, absence of serrate carina on the basis of gnathopod 2 and pereopods, mouthparts scarcely setose, absence of Wne setae on peduncle of antenna 1 and absence of swimming setae on antenna 2. The number of caprellid species reported from the Mediterranean Sea has increased from 23 (1993) to 41 (2010), consequently, further taxonomical studies should be addressed to properly estimate the total amphipod diversity in the Mediterranean Sea. [less ▲]

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See detailPotential early indicators of anthropogenically derived nutrients : a multiscale stable isotope analysis
Vermeulen, Simon ULg; Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg et al

in Marine Ecology. Progress Series (2011), 422

Increasing human pressure along Mediterranean coastlines raises the need to define sensitive bioindicators that provide an early response to nutrient enrichment. We performed multiscale carbon and ... [more ▼]

Increasing human pressure along Mediterranean coastlines raises the need to define sensitive bioindicators that provide an early response to nutrient enrichment. We performed multiscale carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses on the limpet Patella caerulea, the snail Monodonta turbinata, epilithic biofilms, and the macroalga Rissoella verruculosa inhabiting the rocky midlittoral zone. Samples were seasonally collected in 2006 from 5 sites exposed to a range of anthropogenic discharges in the Revellata Bay area and in Marseille harbour (France). All bioindicators exhibited strongly elevated δ15N values at impacted sites compared to pristine ones, which revealed the biological availability of anthropogenically derived nutrients. Only epilithic biofilms tended to show both the occurrence of nutrient pulses during the tourist season and a δ13C response at impacted sites. In contrast to macroalgae, which exhibited a somewhat equivocal signal, gastropods and especially M. turbinata provided the best time-integrated picture of the graduated exposure of the 5 sites to anthropogenic impact. Results also showed first evidence of large isotopic variability at a scale of tens of metres, close to that found at the kilometre scale. The intra- and interspecific isotopic variability in gastropods may be explained by the patchiness of resources and specific morphological and behavioural features, but these factors do not greatly hamper their potential as early bioindicators of wastewater disturbances. [less ▲]

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See detailDistribution patterns of Caprella tavolarensis (Crustacea: Amphipoda) in the Tavolara-Punta Coda Cavallo Marine Protected Area.
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Gobert, Sylvie ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

in Biologia Marina Mediterranea (2011), 18(1), 290-291

Distribution patterns of Caprella tavolarensis was investigated at the tavolara-punta Coda Cavallo Marine protected area. results revealed that C. tavolarensis abundance may exhibit spatial patterns ... [more ▼]

Distribution patterns of Caprella tavolarensis was investigated at the tavolara-punta Coda Cavallo Marine protected area. results revealed that C. tavolarensis abundance may exhibit spatial patterns associated with the protection status of the zones, highlighting the importance of totally protected areas in species conservation and management. [less ▲]

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See detailTop-down role of fish predators in structuring amphipod community associated to Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Panzalis, Pier et al

Poster (2010, October)

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 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 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 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 detailMulti-scale spatial variability of amphipod assemblages from the foliar stratum of the Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile meadow
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

Conference (2008, October)

Studying spatial patterns is of ecological importance in order to understand the causes of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and it also provides valuable basis for management and conservation ... [more ▼]

Studying spatial patterns is of ecological importance in order to understand the causes of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and it also provides valuable basis for management and conservation. In the Mediterranean coastal zone, the Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows constitute one of the dominant ecosystems and are an important habitat for vagile invertebrates. Among these, amphipods comprise a large number of species, with considerable abundance and biomass, as well as being an important trophic resource for fish populations. Until now, little attention has been given to the horizontal variability at different spatial scales of amphipod assemblages associated with P. oceanica meadows. A hierarchical sampling design, spanning three orders of magnitude (from 1 to 100s of metres) was elaborated. Sampling was undertaken in March 2007 in the meadows of Calvi Bay (NW Corsica), at depths ranging from 10 to 13 m, using a suction sampler. Our results indicated an important horizontal variability of the studied assemblage, and this at different spatial scales. In addition, these results tend to show that the small scale (~ 1 m and ~ 10 m) influenced abundance, while the medium-scale (~ 100 m) influenced diversity. Some potential causes of the observed patterns are discussed. These results emphasize the importance of considering different spatial scales in the study of the vagile invertebrates associated with P. oceanica meadows. [less ▲]

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See detailApproche préliminaire de la variabilité spatiale multiéchelle de la structure de la communauté de crustacés amphipodes associée aux herbiers à Posidonia oceanica
Sturaro, Nicolas ULg

Master of advanced studies dissertation (2007)

L’objectif de ce travail était d’analyser la variabilité spatiale de la structure de la communauté d’amphipodes associée à la strate foliaire de l’herbier à Posidonia oceanica à différentes échelles, à ... [more ▼]

L’objectif de ce travail était d’analyser la variabilité spatiale de la structure de la communauté d’amphipodes associée à la strate foliaire de l’herbier à Posidonia oceanica à différentes échelles, à savoir l’échelle ~ 1 m, l’échelle ~ 10 m et l’échelle ~ 100 m. Trois cadres permanents placés à une profondeur de 12-13 m et séparés horizontalement d’une distance de 10 et 100 m, ont été échantillonnés en mars 2007 à l’aide d’une suceuse à air comprimé. Neuf prélèvements on été analysés. L’analyse des échantillons fait apparaître que la communauté d’amphipodes est abondante, riche en espèces et montre une diversité considérée comme moyenne. D’autre part, cette communauté est dominée par quelques espèces seulement, à savoir Apherusa chiereghinii, Aora spinicornis, Amphilochus neapolitanus et le taxon Apherusa sp., représente à eux quatre 83,4 % du total des individus récoltés. L’abondance relative des taxons dominants se révèle relativement identique. La méthode de prélèvement utilisée à savoir la suceuse à air comprimé s’avère efficace vu le nombre important d’amphipodes récoltés (jusqu’à 97 individus pour une surface de 0,129 m2 et le faible taux d’organismes endommagés (3,7 % du total des individus). L’analyse des résultats obtenus pour les caractéristiques structurelles de la communauté montre qu’il existe une variabilité spatiale importante au sein de la communauté d’amphipodes, et ceci aux différentes échelles étudiées. Ces résultats démontrent également que certaines échelles influencent les caractéristiques de la communauté plus que d’autres. La petite échelle spatiale (~ 1m et ~ 10 m) a tendance à influencer l’abondance des amphipodes, alors que la moyenne échelle spatiale (~ 100 m) a un effet sur la richesse spécifique et la diversité de la communauté étudiée. Les résultats obtenus dans ce travail concernant l’abondance des amphipodes entre les différents prélèvements, les valeurs de l’indice de dispersion I (toujours supérieures à 1) et l’analyse multidimensionnelle suggèrent que cette communauté est caractérisée par une répartition spatiale irrégulière en taches (« patchiness »), à petite échelle (~ 1 m). La comparaison de l’abondance entre les cadres 1 et 2 montre aussi une différence significative. Cependant, pour ces deux échelles spatiales, aucune relation n’a pu être mise en évidence avec les caractéristiques de l’herbier (densité en faisceaux de posidonies et longueur maximale des feuilles). L’étude de l’échelle spatiale ~ 100 m montre qu’il existe des variations de la richesse spécifique et de la diversité de la communauté. Ces variations pourraient être expliquées par la présence d‘accumulations de litières plus importantes où la densité de l’herbier est plus faible. L’ensemble de ces résultats tente de suggérer qu’il est donc essentiel d’intégrer différentes échelles spatiales dans l’étude de la faune vagile de l’herbier à posidonies, en particulier celle des crustacés amphipodes. [less ▲]

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