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Shifting baselines in the Ems Dollard estuary: A comparison across three decades reveals changing benthic communities

Compton, T. J., Holthuijsen, S., Mulder, M., van Arkel, M., Schaars, L. K., Koolhaas, A., Dekinga, A., ten Horn, J., Luttikhuizen, P. C., van der Meer, J., Piersma, T. & van der Veer, H. W., Sep-2017, In : Journal of Sea Research. 127, p. 119-132 14 p.

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  • Shifting baselines in the Ems Dollard estuary

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At a time when there is a growing discussion about the natural state of estuaries, a comparison of macrozoobenthos communities from two surveys conducted 30. years apart in the Ems Dollard estuary, in the eastern Wadden Sea, The Netherlands, provides a unique opportunity to compare changes over time. As expected, our comparison revealed a gradient in species composition from land (the Dollard) to sea (the Outer Ems) at both points in time, with brackish species in the Dollard and more marine species in the Outer Ems (Wadden Sea). Total richness increased over time; however, this mainly reflected the immigration of new species and sampling differences. In the Dollard, total biomass declined over time, most likely reflecting de-eutrophication in this area. Strikingly, at the meeting point between the sea and the brackish Dollard, i.e. the Inner Ems, the community composition changed from one dominated by bivalves (1970s) to one dominated by worms (since 2009). This change involved a reduction in total biomass, mainly of Mya arenaria, and immigration of polychaete worms (Marenzellaria viridis and Alitta succinea). In the Outer Ems, an increase in total biomass was observed, associated with the recent successful recruitment of Cerastoderma edule. This comparison highlights that historical data provides useful insights at large spatial scales. However, a full understanding of the complex dynamics of estuaries requires an analysis of continuous long-term monitoring series.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Sea Research
Volume127
Publication statusPublished - Sep-2017

    Keywords

  • Ecosystem function, Ems Dollard, Estuary, Historical ecology, Wadden Sea, PLATICHTHYS-FLESUS L., DUTCH WADDEN SEA, MACROFAUNA COMMUNITIES, INTERTIDAL MACROFAUNA, ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION, ORGANIC POLLUTION, SPECIES RICHNESS, TIDAL FLATS, LONG-TERM, BIVALVE

ID: 46526397