Spatial variability in the structure of intertidal crab and gastropod assemblages within the Seychelles Archipelago (Indian Ocean)

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Journal Article
Journal of Sea Research, 2012, 69 pp. 8 - 15
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Tropical nearshore ecosystems represent global hotspots of marine biodiversity and endemism but are often poorly understood and impacted by human activities. The Seychelles Archipelago (Western Indian Ocean) sustains a wealth of marine life, much of which is threatened by rapid development associated with tourism and climate change. Six marine parks exist within the Archipelago, but their biodiversity value and ecological health are poorly known, especially with regards to non-fish and coral species. Here we investigate spatial patterns of littoral biodiversity on 6 islands, 5 of which were granitic and within marine parks, including the first surveys of Curieuse and Ile Cocos. Our surveys formed a nested sampling design, to facilitate an examination of variability in species richness, faunal abundance, taxonomic distinctness and assemblage composition at multiple spatial scales, from islands (>. 100. s. km) to quadrats (metres). We identified (mostly to species) and enumerated two target taxa, brachyuran decapod crustaceans and gastropod molluscs, and recorded over 8300 individuals belonging to over 150 species. Crabs and gastropods exhibited different patterns of spatial variability, as crab assemblages were generally more distinct between islands, while gastropod assemblages were markedly variable at the smallest spatial scales of 'patch' and 'quadrat'. Intertidal biodiversity was greatest on Curieuse Island and least at Desroches, the latter was being the only coral atoll we surveyed and thereby differing in its geological and ecological context. We discuss likely drivers of these biodiversity patterns and highlight urgently-needed research directions. Our assessment of the status of poorly-known invertebrate assemblages across the Seychelles will complement more extensive surveys of coral and fish assemblages and, in doing so, provide a useful baseline for monitoring the effects of key stressors in the region, such as coastal development and climate change. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.
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