A first assessment of the ecological importance of the hyperbenthic fauna in coastal and estuarine systems was made in December 1988 in a pilot study (41 stations) covering the Westerschelde and Oosterschelde estuaries, and part of the neighbouring shallow coastal area, the Voordelta. Multivariate analysis revealed three major gradients which could be divided into seven spatially defined hyperbenthic communities. Canonical Correspondence Analysis was applied to correlate these species assemblages with a number of environmental variables measured at each station. Species distributions in the Westerschelde appear to be primarily determined by a gradient involving salinity, turbidity and dissolved oxygen. Hyperbenthic animals, mainly the mysid Neomysis integer, reached high densities in the brackish part (>12 ind·m-2), whereas the more seaward stations had lower densities but a higher number of species. In the benthic filter-feeder dominated Oosterschelde, the total density of the hyperbenthos was very low (<0,05 ind·m-2). The shallow coastal area had intermediate densities. There was a clear gradient from offshore to inshore but the environmental variables measured did not correlate well with this gradient. Though there were substantial overlaps between the clusters, as defined by the different multivariate techniques used, the Voordelta area can be divided into three main subareas.
Ecologische hyperbentische data van het Schelde-estuarium: historische data (1988-2001), meer
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