Marine Biology

, Volume 149, Issue 5, pp 1185–1197 | Cite as

Interlinked temporal changes in environmental conditions, chemical characteristics of sediments and macrofaunal assemblages in an estuarine intertidal sandflat (Seto Inland Sea, Japan)

  • Paolo MagniEmail author
  • Serena Como
  • Shigeru Montani
  • Hiroaki Tsutsumi
Research Article


Five field surveys were conducted in an estuarine intertidal sandflat of the Seto Inland Sea (Japan) between April 1994 and April 1995. Chlorophyll a, pheopigments, total organic carbon and acid-volatile sulphides (AVS) of surface and subsurface sediments, and macrofaunal assemblages were investigated in parallel at 15 stations. Monthly hydrological data of low-tide creek water adjacent to the flat were used as a complementary environmental characterisation of the study area. Strong temporal changes were found among sampling dates, most remarkably in autumn with a major increase of algal detritus and AVS, a sharp reduction in macrofaunal abundances and species richness, and a massive mortality of the clam Ruditapes philippinarum. This dystrophic event was preceded by a photoautotrophic and hypertrophic spring–summer characterized by abundant fresh (i.e., living) algal material, including microphytobenthos and macroalgae (Ulva sp.). In summer, abundant macrofaunal assemblages reached the highest biomass values (455 g wet weight m−2 or 60.6 g ash free dry weight m−2), with a major contribution of filter-feeding bivalves Musculista senhousia and R. philippinarum. These are among the highest values reported in the literature for sedimentary shores. From autumn, there was a progressive recolonisation of macrofauna, initiated by few opportunistic polychaetes (e.g., Cirriformia tentaculata and Polydora sp.), apparently promoting a fast sediment recovery in winter, and followed by new bivalve recruits in the next spring. This study provides the first evidence of significant and interlinked within-year changes in chemical characteristics of sediments and macrofaunal assemblages in an estuarine intertidal flat at a small spatial scale (i.e., tens of meters). This demonstrates the high temporal variability of species–environment relations in these systems and a close relationship in seasonally driven trophodynamic processes among primary producers and benthic consumers. We conclude that a thorough parallel evaluation of the temporal changes in chemical characteristics of sediments should be taken into account in assessing the year-round distribution and changes of intertidal macrofauna, particularly in eutrophic, estuarine intertidal flats.


Total Organic Carbon Polychaete Particulate Organic Carbon Ulva Total Suspended Matter 
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 wish to thank K. Ichimi and the students of the Laboratory of Environmental Oceanography, Kagawa University, particularly T. Sezaki and M. Harada, for their cooperation during the field work and assistance in the laboratory. This study was partly supported by a research fund (15201001) from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (Grant-in-Aid of Scientific Research). It is contribution number MPS-06013 of the EU Network of Excellence MarBEF.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paolo Magni
    • 1
    Email author
  • Serena Como
    • 1
  • Shigeru Montani
    • 2
  • Hiroaki Tsutsumi
    • 3
  1. 1.IMC – International Marine Centre, Località Sa MardiniOristanoItaly
  2. 2.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceHokkaido UniversityHokkaido Japan
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental & Symbiotic SciencesPrefectural University of KumamotoKumamoto Japan

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