Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Species distribution in estuaries

EU researchers investigated how environmental variables affect diversity and abundance of animals at the bottom of estuaries. They found that different factors had an influence at different scales.
Species distribution in estuaries
Living in the sand of our estuaries are creatures like shellfish, worms and crabs. Understanding how these organisms are distributed across space is important for improving our knowledge of ecological processes.

EU-funded scientists of the BAYESIANMETAFLATS (Spatial organization of species distributions: Hierarchical and scale-dependent patterns and processes in coastal seascapes) initiative used modelling and distribution to study how environmental factors influence the community structure of bottom-dwelling estuarine species.

First, the researchers collected samples from more than 1 000 locations in three of the major harbours on New Zealand's coast. From these they identified more than 145 species and measured their abundance. They also looked at food availability and habitat variation such as seagrass cover and sediment type at the sampling sites.

Second, the researchers used this information to model relationships across environmental factors and the abundance patterns observed. Their results showed that estuarine communities were organised differently at different spatial scales. They also revealed that a wide range of environmental factors influence community structure at a large scale. At a small scale, a more limited set of factors explained the community structure of bottom-dwelling estuarine species.

This project builds on scientists' knowledge of how to create effective models of species distributions, and its findings inform our basic understanding of ecological processes.

Related information


Species distribution, estuaries, ecological processes, BAYESIANMETAFLATS, community structure
Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top