Marine Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 3, pp 667–677 | Cite as

Wanted dead or alive: high diversity of macroinvertebrates associated with living and ‘dead’ Posidonia oceanica matte

  • J. A. BorgEmail author
  • A. A. Rowden
  • M. J. Attrill
  • P. J. Schembri
  • M. B. Jones
Research Article


The Mediterranean endemic seagrass Posidonia oceanica forms beds characterised by a dense leaf canopy and a thick root-rhizome ‘matte’. Death of P. oceanica shoots leads to exposure of the underlying matte, which can persist for many years, and is termed ‘dead’ matte. Traditionally, dead matte has been regarded as a degraded habitat. To test whether this assumption was true, the motile macroinvertebrates of adjacent living (with shoots) and dead (without shoots) matte of P. oceanica were sampled in four different plots located at the same depth (5–6 m) in Mellieha Bay, Malta (central Mediterranean). The total number of species and abundance were significantly higher (ANOVA; P<0.05 and P<0.01, respectively) in the dead matte than in living P. oceanica matte, despite the presence of the foliar canopy in the latter. Multivariate analysis (MDS) clearly showed two main groups of assemblages, corresponding to the two matte types. The amphipods Leptocheirus guttatus and Maera grossimana, and the polychaete Nereis rava contributed most to the dissimilarity between the two different matte types. Several unique properties of the dead matte contributing to the unexpected higher number of species and abundance of motile macroinvertebrates associated with this habitat are discussed. The findings have important implications for the conservation of bare P. oceanica matte, which has been generally viewed as a habitat of low ecological value.


Polychaete Matte Type Assemblage Composition Shoot Density Macroinvertebrate Assemblage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Mike Kendall (Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK), Maria Beatrice Scipione (Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Ischia, Naples) and Constantine Mifsud (Malta) for help with identification of macrofauna. J. A. Borg received financial support from the University of Malta. The experiments carried out as part of this study comply with the laws of Malta, where they were held. This paper benefited from the suggestions of two anonymous referees.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. A. Borg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • A. A. Rowden
    • 1
    • 3
  • M. J. Attrill
    • 1
  • P. J. Schembri
    • 2
  • M. B. Jones
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK
  2. 2.Department of BiologyUniversity of MaltaMsidaMalta
  3. 3.National Institute of Water and Atmospheric ResearchWellingtonNew Zealand

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