Nowadays, beach nourishment is widely considered as a better alternative compared to the construction of hard structures to protect a sandy coast against detrimental erosive effects, both from an ecological and an engineering perspective. The rare studies conducted on the ecological impact of beach nourishment are short-term, post hoc monitoring investigations of the benthic macrofauna. Little is known of the biological processes during and after nourishment. To allow swift recolonization after nourishment, the characteristics of the nourished beach have to match the habitat demands of the benthic macrofauna. The sediment preference of the key intertidal species Scolelepis squamata, Eurydice pulchra, Bathyporeia pilosa and Bathyporeia sarsi, which dominate many West European sandy beaches, was investigated through laboratory experiments, both in single-species as well as combined-species treatments. While the former aimed at developing guidelines for impact mitigation of beach nourishment, the latter aimed at elucidating the role of biotic interactions in sediment preference. Results of the experiments indicated that B. pilosa and E. pulchra prefer the finest sediment, while B. sarsi had a broader preference and also occurred in medium-coarse sediments. However, the sediment preference of E. pulchra for fine sediments was not confirmed by other field and experimental studies. The polychaete S. squamata had the broadest preference and even showed a high occurrence in coarse sediments that are not naturally occurring on the sandy beaches where the animals were caught for this experiment. However, this polychaete is a cosmopolitan species, not only occurring on fine-grained beaches, but also on coarse-grained beaches worldwide. The preferences imply that beach nourishment with coarse sediment will have a major effect on B. pilosa while effects of coarse sediments on S. squamata will be minor. Finally, interspecific competition with the sympatrically occurring amphipod B. sarsi was found to change the sediment selection of the amphipod B. pilosa towards the coarser sediments where B. sarsi occurred in lower frequencies. (C) 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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