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Macrobenthos of the subtidal Wadden Sea: revisited after 55 years

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During the years 1923–1926 Hagmeier & Kändler (1927) sampled the macrofauna of subtidal shallows and channels of the Wadden Sea close to the Island of Sylt (German Bight, North Sea). Reinvestigating this study area in 1980, a substantially altered faunal composition was recorded. An approach is made to quantify the comparison in terms of abundance, species richness and diversity of invertebrate taxa. Human interference is assumed to be responsible for the major changes. Natural oyster beds have been overexploited and the local population ofOstrea edulis has been driven to extinction. Subsequently, mussels(Mytilus edulis) spread in the entire region, promoted by shell fishery. Particularly barnacles and many polychaetes took advantage of the expansion of mussel banks which is substantiated by correlation analysis. Reefs of the colonial polychaeteSabellaria spinulosa stood in the way of shrimp trawling and became destroyed together with the associated fauna. A subtidalZostera marina bed was wiped out in 1934 by a natural epidemic disease but never succeeded in reestablishing itself. The associated fauna disappeared. Large epibenthic predators and scavengers (crabs, snails and starfish) survived all these changes. The total number of species remained approximately at the same level but molluscs experienced losses and polychaetes diversified. Overall abundance increased with a disproportionately large share of a few species(Mytilus edulis, Balanus crenatus, Cerastoderma edule, Scoloplos armiger). The subtidal fauna of the Wadden Sea proved to be vulnerable to human disturbance; thus, the present community can no longer be viewed as the outcome of entirely natural processes.

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  • Polychaete
  • Human Disturbance
  • Mytilus Edulis
  • German Bight
  • Epidemic Disease