In a preliminary study of the marine benthos of Ría de Ares-Betanzos, 50 stations covering the quadrant delineated by the coordinates 43°26′42″N–43°20′42″N and 08°18′54″W–08°10′12″W were sampled and sediment samples analysed for particle-size composition, sand, silt and clay content, degree of sorting, median diameter and grain-size diversity of sediments. Organic and inorganic content, total carbon and nitrogen, carbonates, organic carbon/total nitrogen ratio and bathymetric data were also collected. On a smaller scale a few stations were sampled for sediment redox potential and pH measurement. The salinity, temperature and oxygen content of the overlying water was also assessed.
Cluster analysis and Principal Component Analysis methods were used to describe seabed heterogeneity and the pattern of sediment distribution within the ría, and to relate the environmental variables to each sediment type. Sediments were predominantly fine to very fine sands, and exhibited a direct depth-related gradient, i.e. with the finer grades, higher organic carbon and silt and clay occurring at the shallower areas of Pontedeume, Ares and Redes inlets and Ría de Betanzos sector where terrigenous input was important. Carbonate, organic carbon and organic matter maxima occurred in the central sector of the ría where most mollusc recruitment takes place: revealing the chiefly bioclastic origin of sediments. Taking into account the geological and hydrographic processes, explanations for the formation of the sedimentary bottoms in Ría de Ares-Betanzos are provided.