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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

INFLUENCE OF SEASON, INTERTIDAL ZONE, AND SEDIMENT DEPTH ON MEIOFAUNA OF NANNYGOAT BEACH, SAPELO ISLAND, GEORGIA

Abstract

Meiofauna are benthic marine invertebrates ranging from 50 µm to 500 µm in size. They are vital to the coastal marine food web by serving as primary consumers, food for juvenile species that are both commercially and ecologically valuable, and as detritovores. Additionally, meiofauna are good indicator species for pollution that disrupts ecosystems. We were interested in the effect of season, intertidal zone, and sediment depth on meiofauna abundance and diversity as well as associated biotic and abiotic factors. Seasonal sand samples were collected from Nannygoat Beach, a beach with limited anthropogenic disturbance, on Sapelo Island, Georgia through 2017. Low, middle, and high tidal zones (measured from mean low tide height) were sampled at three locations along the beach; core samples were split into 0 - 5 cm and 5 – 10 cm depths for analysis. Meiofauna were separated from the sand, identified to the nearest phylum by visual inspection, and then counted. Biotic factors contributing to meiofauna abundance such as chlorophyll concentration and total organic content were measured in addition to abiotic factors such as sand grain size, density, moisture, and the slope of the beach. We observed 16 taxonomic groups over the period of 1 calendar year. Nematodes were the most abundant taxon comprising 83% of total organisms observed. Meiofauna were most abundant in summer and fall and least abundant in winter. Intertidal zone (60%), sediment depth (33%), and season (7%) explained the variance in meiofauna abundance. Meiofauna abundance was positively correlated with organic content in sediment. Whereas abundance was lowest in the high intertidal zone, diversity was highest in the shallow sand of the high intertidal zone. This study provides valuable information that is relevant to the understanding of metazoan food webs as well as beach disturbances such as pollution.

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