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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 detailFrom nets to bottom traps: is exploitation of Norway lobsters a suitable option for Corsican common spiny lobster fishermen?
Patrissi, Michela; Astrou, Adèle; Pelaprat, Corinne et al

Poster (2014, May 20)

In Corsica (NW Mediterranean), most of the fishing activity is composed of small-scale artisanal fisheries, and takes place on the western coast. The common spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) is the main ... [more ▼]

In Corsica (NW Mediterranean), most of the fishing activity is composed of small-scale artisanal fisheries, and takes place on the western coast. The common spiny lobster (Palinurus elephas) is the main target of Corsican netters. However, its populations have been declining since the 1950's, questioning the sustainability of this activity. We therefore tried to assess whether the fishing effort, currently mostly focused on common spiny lobsters, could be moved towards other commercially-interesting deep crustaceans, such as the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus), through diversification of artisanal fishing practices. With the help of local fishermen, we set up Scottish traps for Norway lobsters at depths of 300 to 400 meters, on sandy and muddy bottoms of both eastern and western coasts. Despite several tests using different baits and soak times at various depths or seasons, catches on the western coast were low. On the other hand, on the eastern coast, experimentation showed interesting yields, and large mean size (i.e. high commercial value) for both sexes. While more studies are needed to confirm these results and improve knowledge of Norway lobster stocks, trap fishing of this species on eastern coast of Corsica could be a suitable alternative for diversification of artisanal fisheries. [less ▲]

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See detailLong term spatial and temporal variability in catches of common spiny lobster Palinurus elephas (Fabricius, 1787) in Corsica (NW Mediterranean): fisheries trends, biological trends or both?
Pere, Anthony; Astrou, Adèle; Patrissi, Michela et al

Conference (2014, May 20)

The small-scale fishing fleet of Corsica (France, NW Mediterranean) is mostly composed of small artisanal boats. The common spiny lobster, Palinurus elephas, is the most valuable of all caught species. As ... [more ▼]

The small-scale fishing fleet of Corsica (France, NW Mediterranean) is mostly composed of small artisanal boats. The common spiny lobster, Palinurus elephas, is the most valuable of all caught species. As a result, it is the main target of most fishermen during the 7-months fishing season. Populations of this species seem to decrease since the 1950's. The aim of this study was to understand if this decline could be linked with overfishing, or if other biological, ecological or climatic factors could explain this population drop. To achieve this goal, we combined 1) a meta-analysis of all data concerning fishing effort and captures in published and grey literature and 2) an on-board monitoring program that started in 2004. Using obtained data, we followed fleet structure, fishing effort and captures evolution from 1950 to 2011. Our results point out an important capture decrease during the 20th century. This trend started during the 1950’s and 1960’s, when trammel nets replaced traditional wood traps. A micro-regional analysis revealed that exploitation intensity widely varied among different areas around the island. Moreover, landings and catch rates showed important spatial and temporal variations. This could be caused by changes in recruitment rates. However, recruitment processes of this species are still poorly understood. Improving our knowledge of common spiny lobster life cycle will likely lead to a more comprehensive and efficient assessment of Corsican stocks of this species. [less ▲]

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See detailStable isotopes as descriptors of trophic niches
Michel, Loïc ULg

Scientific conference (2014, March 25)

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See detailBoundary lines in symbiosis forms
Parmentier, Eric ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg

in Symbiosis (2013)

Symbiosis can take different forms (parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, etc.) but boundaries between different types of symbiotic interactions are not well defined. The kinds of symbiotic associations ... [more ▼]

Symbiosis can take different forms (parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, etc.) but boundaries between different types of symbiotic interactions are not well defined. The kinds of symbiotic associations between organisms cannot however be restricted to isolated and distinct categories. These associations are part of a broad continuum in which it is difficult to know where one type of association ends and another begins. Moreover, different scientists use the same term to mean different things or different terms tomean the same thing. This can obscure what is biologically important and what is not. This communication proposes a new classification scheme, which simply and comprehensively illustrates relationships between the various kinds of associations. The scheme illustrates relationships clearly and highlights the continuum between types of associations. It further indicates where modifications to the scheme are possible over time. The classification of the association between two organisms can be reduced to two factors: 1) the impact incurred by the host (benefit or damage) and 2) the relative duration of the association (RDA), i.e. the ratio of the duration of the association to the life expectancy of the symbiont. The conceptual figure provides concrete examples and illustrates some relationships that can change during different life stages. This figure should help teachers and students in the understanding of symbiosis, and could be a starting point for future discussions in the continuously developing research fields studying ecological and evolutionary implications of symbiotic relationships. [less ▲]

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See detailStables isotopes in the fin whale Balaenoptera physalus from the Mediterranean Sea: implications for management and conservation
Das, Krishna ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

Poster (2013, April)

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the commonest large whale species in the Mediterranean Sea, found mostly over deep, offshore waters of the western and central portion of the region. This whale is ... [more ▼]

The fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) is the commonest large whale species in the Mediterranean Sea, found mostly over deep, offshore waters of the western and central portion of the region. This whale is known to feed mainly on krill in contrast to its Atlantic counterpart, displaying a more diversified diet. δ13C and δ15N values were analysed by IR-MS (Isoprime 100) coupled to an N-C-S elemental analyser (Vario MICRO Cube, Elementar) in 113 skin biopsies from Mediterranean fin whales sampled in 2010 and 2011 during WWF campaign at sea. A lipid normalization equation was applied (adapted from Post al. 2007) because the measured C:N ratio was > 3.5. Normalized δ13C and δ15N values ranged from -20.3 to -17.3 ‰ and from 5.9 to 8.9 ‰, respectively. These values are in good agreement with those collected previously on baleen plates from Mediterranean fin whales (Bentaleb et al., 2011). A mean enrichment of 3.4 ‰ was observed between δ15N values measured in fin whale skin biopsies and Mediterranean krill (Meganyctiphanes norvegica) confirming the importance of the krill as a major food source. The narrow width of the isotopic niche of the Mediterranean fin whale (evaluated by SIBER Stable Isotope Bayesian Ellipses) compared to the Atlantic fin whale (Ryan et al. 2012) raises many concerns in the context of global changes and long-term consequences. One could expect that species displaying narrow niches would be more susceptible to ecosystem fragmentation and other anthropogenic impacts. [less ▲]

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See detailDiet- and tissue-specific incorporation of isotopes in the shark Scyliorhinus stellaris, a North Sea mesopredator
Caut, Stephane; Jowers, Michael J.; Michel, Loïc ULg et al

in Marine Ecology. Progress Series (2013), 492

Elucidating predator–prey relationships is an important part of understanding and assessing the structure and function of ecosystems. Sharks are believed to play a significant role in marine ecosystems ... [more ▼]

Elucidating predator–prey relationships is an important part of understanding and assessing the structure and function of ecosystems. Sharks are believed to play a significant role in marine ecosystems, although their specific trophic ecology is largely unexplored. Stable isotopes of nitrogen ( 15N) and carbon ( 1318 C) are a widely applied tool in food web studies but there is a need to quantify stable isotope dynamics in animals, particularly sharks. In this study, diet-tissue discrimination factors (DTDF = stable isotope in consumer tissue – stable isotope in diet) and turnover rates (time for the isotope to be assimilated into the consumer’s tissue) of stable isotopes were estimated in blood, fin, and muscle tissue for the shark species Scyliorhinus stellaris fed two diets with different isotope values. Subsequently, these diet- and tissue-specific DTDFs were used in isotopic mixing models to quantify the diet of Scyliorhinus canicula caught in the North Sea and compared with stomach content data. DTDFs for 15N ( 15N) and 13C ( 13C) ranged from –1.95‰ to 3.49‰ and from 0.52‰ to 5.14‰, respectively, and varied with tissue and diet type. Isotope turnover rates in plasma and red blood cells, expressed as half-lives, range from 39 to 135 days. A majority of the variability of DTDFs reported in this and other studies with sharks can be explained by linear relationships between DTDF and dietary isotopic values. From these relationships, we propose a method for isotope mixing models that uses diet specific DTDFs, which improves diet reconstruction estimates of animals, particularly mesopredator sharks that consume a large range of prey types. [less ▲]

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See detailDiet of harbor porpoises along the Dutch coast: a combined stable isotope and stomach contents approach
Jansen, Okka; Michel, Loïc ULg; Lepoint, Gilles ULg et al

in Marine Mammal Science (2013), 29(3), 295-311

High stranding frequency of porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, along the Dutch coast since 2006 has led to increased interest in the ecology of porpoises in the North Sea. Stranded porpoises were collected ... [more ▼]

High stranding frequency of porpoises, Phocoena phocoena, along the Dutch coast since 2006 has led to increased interest in the ecology of porpoises in the North Sea. Stranded porpoises were collected along the Dutch coast (2006–2008) and their diet was assessed through stomach content and stable isotope analysis (d13C and d15N) of porpoise muscle and prey. Stable isotope analysis (SIAR) was used to estimate the con- tribution of prey species to the porpoises’ diet. This was compared to prey composi- tion from stomach contents, to analyze differences between long- and short-term diet. According to stomach contents, 90.5% of the diet consisted of gobies, whiting, lesser sandeel, herring, cod, and sprat. Stable isotope analysis revealed that 70-83% of the diet consisted of poor cod, mackerel, greater sandeel, lesser sandeel, sprat, and gobies, highlighting a higher importance of pelagic, schooling species in the porpoises’ diet compared to stomach contents. This could be due to prey distribution as well as differ- ences in behavior of porpoises and prey between the coastal zone and offshore waters. This study supports the need for multi-method approaches. Future ecological and fishery impact assessment studies and management decisions for porpoise conservation should acknowledge this difference between the long- and short-term diet. [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 detailStare-Capmed : Présentation générale du projet et exemple d'une action : "Impact de l'ancrage sur la dynamique des herbiers de posidonies".
Michel, Loïc ULg; Champenois, Willy ULg; Borges, Alberto ULg et al

Conference (2012, May 16)

STARE-CAPMED (STAtion of Reference and rEsearch on Change of local and global Anthropogenic Pressures on Mediterranean Ecosystems Drifts) est un projet de recherche mis en place par Stareso S.A.S. depuis ... [more ▼]

STARE-CAPMED (STAtion of Reference and rEsearch on Change of local and global Anthropogenic Pressures on Mediterranean Ecosystems Drifts) est un projet de recherche mis en place par Stareso S.A.S. depuis janvier 2012. Il a pour objectif d’établir un site de référence à long terme pour la compréhension, par la recherche fondamentale, des processus de l’évolution des écosystèmes méditerranéens côtiers et océaniques en réponse aux changements actuels globaux et locaux des pressions anthropiques. Centré sur la Baie de Calvi et le proche large, il vise à fournir un référentiel basé sur des mesures à haute fréquence qui doivent pouvoir complémenter les réseaux de surveillance basse fréquence et de recherches existants et ainsi faire progresser la compréhension des processus. En outre, le projet doit fournir aux utilisateurs finaux (collectivités locales et régionales, administrations nationales, ...) des orientations de gestion basées sur l’analyse étayée des processus en jeux. Financé par l’Agence de l’eau RMC et la Collectivité Territoriale de Corse, le projet, multidisciplinaire, se décline actuellement selon 10 axes de travail : • Suivi du cadre hydrographique et physico-chimique • Suivi et quantification des pressions anthropiques • Ecosystème planctonique • Benthos de substrat meuble • Benthos de substrat dur et faune vagile • Phanérogames marines et écosystèmes associés • Mouillages et processus d’altération des herbiers de posidonies • Ecotoxicologie et polluants émergents • Bilan CO2 et métabolisme des écosystèmes • Zones protégées, espèces nouvelles, recrutement Pour chacun de ces axes, la stratégie d’échantillonnage est basée sur la comparaison de données obtenues durant des périodes où l’impact anthropique est faible (octobre-avril) avec celles obtenues durant des périodes de pression intense (mai-septembre), et sur la comparaison de données issues de sites de référence peu impactés avec celles provenant de sites où l’impact anthropique est reconnu. A titre d’exemple, le but de l’action "Mouillages et processus d’altération des herbiers de posidonies" est de mettre en évidence les conséquences des altérations liées à l’arrachage de faisceaux de posidonies sur la vitalité de l’herbier. Des zones où la pression de mouillage est reconnue seront définies sur base des travaux de cartographie de l’herbier, également réalisés dans le cadre du projet STARE-CAPMED. Elles seront comparées avec des zones d’herbiers sains témoins par la caractérisation du sédiment (mesures de compacité in situ, mesures des concentrations en O2 et nutriments et du pH de l’eau interstitielle, granulométrie et teneur en matière organique du sédiment, proportions de rhizomes et morts) ainsi que par la définition de l’état physiologique des faisceaux de posidonies (mesures biométriques classiques, analyses des contenus élémentaires en carbone, azote et phosphore) et par l’application d’indices écologiques définis par la DCE (PREI, BIPO, …). Les résultats obtenus permettront d’avoir une vue d’ensemble des processus par lesquels l’impact physique des mouillages de bateaux de plaisance occasionne des dégâts aux herbiers de posidonies. Ils pourront ainsi fournir une base de connaissances solide aux gestionnaires soucieux de limiter cet impact. [less ▲]

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See detailFeeding ecology of harbour porpoises: stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen in muscle and bone
Jansen, Okka; Geert, Aarts; Das, Krishna ULg et al

in Marine Biology Research (2012), 8(9), 829-841

Harbour porpoises are the most common small cetaceans in the North Sea and Dutch coastal waters. To study their trophic level and feeding location, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (d13C and d15N ... [more ▼]

Harbour porpoises are the most common small cetaceans in the North Sea and Dutch coastal waters. To study their trophic level and feeding location, stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios (d13C and d15N) were analysed in muscle and bone samples collected from 157 porpoises stranded along the Dutch coast (2006􏰄2008). In addition, samples from 30 prey species were analysed. Prey samples showed high d15N values in species of higher trophic level. In addition, geographic differences in isotopic composition were found, with higher d15N and d13C values in prey from more southern, coastal and estuarine areas. Based on muscle d15N values, we found neonatal enrichment and that larger porpoises, in particular males, seem to feed on lower trophic level species, compared to smaller individuals. Also bone d15N values show that larger animals had fed on lower trophic levels in distant times. Porpoises from the Eastern Scheldt reveal distinct d13C values in muscle, but not in bone. This shows that these animals had foraged in the Eastern Scheldt for a longer time period but were not born there. Seasonal variation in bone d15N and d13C values revealed two distinct groups of porpoises along the Dutch coast, a winter group (mainly males) that migrated from neighbouring regions and a Dutch subpopulation in summer. These results furthered our insight about shifts in trophic level and feeding location of harbour porpoises from the southern North Sea over time. [less ▲]

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See detailMultidisciplinary study of trophic diversity and functional role of amphipod crustaceans associated to Posidonia oceanica meadows
Michel, Loïc ULg

Doctoral thesis (2011)

Posidonia oceanica is the most abundant seagrass of the Mediterranean Sea. It can cover extensive areas with monospecific formations, called meadows. These meadows, whose extent is estimated to about 40 ... [more ▼]

Posidonia oceanica is the most abundant seagrass of the Mediterranean Sea. It can cover extensive areas with monospecific formations, called meadows. These meadows, whose extent is estimated to about 40,000 km2, are critical features of the Mediterranean coastal zones. Moreover, they shelter important biomass and biodiversity of vagile invertebrates. Among these invertebrates, amphipod crustaceans are, alongside gastropod mollusks and polychaete annelids, one of the dominant groups. Amphipods are key-features of other temperate seagrass systems. As they are generally primary consumers, they are important in the transfers of organic matter from producers to higher rank consumers. In addition, their grazing activity on the epiphytes that grow on the seagrasses influence the dynamics of the epiphytic cover, and therefore the functioning of the whole meadow as an ecosystem. However, the situation in Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica meadows is still unclear. In particular, several lacks of information limit the comprehension of actual trophic ecology of amphipods, and of the impact of their feeding activity on the meadow functioning. In this context, the main goal of this work was to enhance the knowledge of the trophic diversity and the functional role of amphipods associated to Posidonia oceanica meadows. To achieve this, we structured our research in three main tasks. For each of these tasks, we chose Calvi Bay (NW Corsica, France) as study site, and all sampling and experimentation was undertaken from the STARESO research station (University of Liège). The first task (chapter 3) was the study of the precise composition of the amphipod community structure at our study site, and its temporal variation at day/night and seasonal scale. Our results show that the fauna of Posidonia oceanica meadows of Calvi Bay is abundant and diverse. The density and the structure of the community were different in each season (November, March and June), probably in relation with meadow parameters such as foliar surface, epiphytic biomass and abundance of litter in the meadow. Moreover, day/night variations were very important. Most amphipods performed vertical migrations that could be a mechanism to avoid predation and/or competition for food and habitat. The comparison of three sampling techniques (hand-towed net, litter collection and light traps) yielded deeply different results, suggesting that each of them only collects a subset of a complex assemblage. Combination of several sampling methods is therefore advised to have a holistic and accurate view of the community. These faunistic data also allowed highlighting the most abundant and/or representative species of the studied community. These include Apherusa chiereghinii, Aora spinicornis, Dexamine spiniventris, Amphithoe helleri, Caprella acanthifera, Gammarella fucicola and Gammarus aequicauda. These species were therefore chosen as target species for the second task. The second task (chapter 4) was the assessment of the extent of interspecific trophic diversity among the studied community. This phenomenon could indeed be important to limit food competition. We tried to perform a full reconstruction of the diet of the dominant species of the community and to evaluate the contribution of each of the potential food items offered by the meadow (animal and vegetal epiphytes from the leaves, rhizomes and litter fragments, SPOM, BPOM, living and dead P. oceanica material). To have an accurate view of the dietary habits of the dominant species, we used a triple strategy based on the joint use of traditional methods (gut content examination) and trophic markers (stable isotopes of C & N, fatty acids). The combination of these three methods proved to be successful, as each method had specific strengths and weaknesses. Overall, results indicate that all dominant species relied on macroalgal epiphytes for a large part of their diet. Our insights were unfortunately limited by the poor discrimination between potential food items, due to high inter-source similarity. Considerable interspecific differences could nonetheless be highlighted, notably concerning preferences of epiphytes from leaves or litter fragments vs. epiphytes from rhizomes. In addition, 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. Contribution of microepiphytes (e.g. diatoms) to the diet of amphipods was apparently anecdotical. Our data also suggested the existence of a certain extent of intraspecific trophic diversity that should be taken into account for future work. In the third and final task (chapter 5), we aimed to put the data obtained in the first two parts of this study in the wider context of the functioning of the Posidonia oceanica meadow as an ecosystem. We used in vitro and in situ microcosms experiments to characterize the interaction between epiphytes and amphipods from a triple point of view (resource depletion, resource assimilation by the consumer and secondary production), and to understand how amphipod grazing could influence the dynamics of the epiphytic cover of the leaves of P. oceanica. Amphipod grazing had no effect on the total epiphytic biomass, or on the encrusting epiphytes’ biomass. However, all three taxa (A. chiereghinii, D. spiniventris and Gammarus spp.) consumed significant amounts (45 to 90 % of total biomass) of erected epiphytes, both vegetal and animal. This selective top-down control might influence the structure and biomass-specific productivity rates of the epiphytic cover. In addition, amphipod grazing caused an increase in N availability and residence time. Through epiphyte removal and N enrichment, amphipods could boost seagrass production. Overall, amphipods of Posidonia oceanica meadows could be seen as ecosystem engineers. Assimilation of the consumed epiphytes was clear for all taxa. However, the utilization of this biomass for secondary production was hard to measure, due to low survival rates of animals. In fine, by combining in situ sampling and microcosm experimentation, and trough the joint use of traditional and innovative techniques, we showed that feeding activity of amphipods influence their biotope through several effects, and that they could be pivotal items of Posidonia oceanica meadows. In doing so, we improved, to some extent, the understanding of these critically important, yet endangered ecosystems. [less ▲]

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See detailThyroid hormone disrupting chemicals in sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) from European coasts
Schnitzler, Joseph ULg; Michel, Loïc ULg; Klaren, Peter et al

Conference (2011, February 25)

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides like Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDTs), Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), aldrin, dieldrin and trace elements (Cd, Cu, Se, Pb, Zn and Hg ... [more ▼]

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides like Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (DDTs), Hexachlorocyclohexanes (HCHs), aldrin, dieldrin and trace elements (Cd, Cu, Se, Pb, Zn and Hg) were analysed in the muscle of sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) sampled in coastal regions near several important European river mouths (Gironde, Charente, Loire, Seine and Scheldt). These potential endocrine disrupting chemicals were present in European coastal waters. Even if their concentrations were well below the Maximum Residue Limits set by the governments, they induced alterations of the endocrine system. We established correlations between contaminant concentrations and effects on the thyroid system in sea bass. The contaminants induced modifications of the metabolic pathways of thyroid hormones and enhanced thyroid hormone synthesis. The activity of T4 Outer Ring Deiodinase was increased, that leads to an intensified conversion of thyroxine (T4) to its more biologically active form triiodothyronine (T3). Meanwhile, the activity of T4 sulfatation was reduced, that leads to a lowered biliary excretion of thyroid hormones. The modified metabolic pathways of the thyroid hormones can be interpreted as a tool to homeostatically maintain the thyroid hormone status. Of all tested compounds, the higher chlorinated PCBs seemed to be the most implicated in this perturbation. The nature of thyroid hormone synthesis, signalling and regulation is highly conserved among vertebrates. Although we cannot extrapolate thyroid toxicity data directly from one species to another, these environmental factors may well affect thyroid function in other species, including humans. [less ▲]

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

Poster (2009, November 27)

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

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

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

Poster (2009, January 27)

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

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

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