The effect of wrack composition and diversity on macrofaunal assemblages in intertidal marine sediments.
Wrack (dead, washed-up seaweed and seagrass) buried in soft substrata may increase the organic content and alter the physical structure of sediments. These effects may influence the composition and structure of macrofaunal assemblages in the sediment. Such influences can be expected to vary according to the type and amount of wrack as well as the presence of invasive seaweeds in the wrack. In this study, we deliberately buried different amounts of the invasive species Sargassum muticum in isolation or mixed to the native species Ulva sp. and Fucus vesiculosus, in two intertidal sandflats to test some hypotheses about the response of macrofaunal assemblages. We tested whether (1) diversity of detritus (i.e. different mixtures), and (2) the amount of detritus of S. muticum influenced the composition and the relative abundance of macrofaunal assemblages. We also assessed whether the sediment organic carbon and the biomass of benthic microalgae varied depending on the diversity of detritus and the amount of detritus of S. muticum. Finally, we tested if these effects of wrack were consistent across sites. Results indicated that buried wrack affected the composition and structure of macrofaunal assemblages in short-term (i.e. 4 weeks), but there were no differences depending on detritus diversity or the amount of S. muticum. In addition, sediment organic matter and microalgal biomass were not affected by the addition of wrack. They instead varied greatly among small spatial scales (i.e. plots). Wrack composition or abundance of the invasive species S. muticum played thus a small role in shaping the structure of macrofaunal assemblages or the biomass of benthic microalgae in these intertidal sediments, probably because these sediments are frequently affected by various inputs of organic matter and benthic assemblages are already adapted to organically enriched sediments.