Transitions in sandflat biota since the 1930s: effects of sea-level rise, eutrophication and biological globalization in the tidal bay Königshafen, northern Wadden Sea.
Conspicuous macrozoobenthos and vegetation of intertidal sandflats in Königshafen (Island of Sylt, SE North Sea) were mapped in 1932, 1988 and 2008. Higher water levels since the 1930s with a concomitant increase in tidal dynamics are assumed to have weakened sediment stability. This dissolved the distinctly banded macrobenthic zonation of the 1930s. Near high water level, cyanobacterial mats with associated beetles, belts of the mudshrimp Corophium volutator and the seagrass Zostera noltii have vanished, while the range of the lugworm Arenicola marina has extended towards the shore. Near low water level, sandy elevations have become permanently submerged because a tidal creek has widened its bed. In 1988, extensive green algal mats and the almost complete absence of seagrass are attributed to peak eutrophication. This partially reversed until 2008. The mussel Mytilus edulis had strongly extended its beds along the creek in 1988. These were taken over by introduced Pacific oysters Crassostrea gigas in 2008. Also in 2008, the cordgrass Spartina anglica, another introduced species, grew into large tussocks where cyanobacterial mats and a Corophium-belt had been mapped in the 1930s. Former benthic patterns may have little chance of resurrection by conventional nature protection because these small-scale shifts represent responses to regional and global change.