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Uncovering the environmental drivers of short-term temporal dynamics in an epibenthic community from the Western English Channel

  • Elizabeth Talbot (a1) (a2), Jorn Bruggeman (a1), Chris Hauton (a2) and Stephen Widdicombe (a1)


Benthic communities, critical to the health and function of marine ecosystems, are under increasing pressure from anthropogenic impacts such as pollution, eutrophication and climate change. In order to refine predictions of likely future changes in benthic communities resulting from these impacts, we must first better constrain their responses to natural seasonality in environmental conditions. Epibenthic time series data (July 2008–May 2014) have been collected from Station L4, situated 7.25 nautical miles south of Plymouth in the Western English Channel. These data were analysed to establish patterns in community abundance, wet biomass and composition, and to link any observed patterns to environmental variables. A clear response to the input of organic material from phytoplankton blooms was detected, with sediment surface living deposit feeders showing an immediate increase in abundance, while predators and scavengers responded later, with an increase in biomass. We suggest that this response is a result of two factors. The low organic content of the L4 sediment results in food limitation of the community, and the mild winter/early spring bottom water temperatures allow the benthos to take immediate advantage of bloom sedimentation. An inter-annual change in community composition was also detected, as the community shifted from one dominated by the anomuran Anapagurus laevis to one dominated by the gastropod Turitella communis. This appeared to be related to a period of high larval recruitment for T. communis in 2013/2014, suggesting that changes in the recruitment success of one species can affect the structure of an entire community.


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Author for correspondence: Elizabeth Talbot, E-mail:


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Uncovering the environmental drivers of short-term temporal dynamics in an epibenthic community from the Western English Channel

  • Elizabeth Talbot (a1) (a2), Jorn Bruggeman (a1), Chris Hauton (a2) and Stephen Widdicombe (a1)


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