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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

Benthic communities in the Southern Bight of the North Sea and their use in ecological monitoring

  • J. C. R. Govaere1,
  • D. Van Damme1,
  • C. Heip1 and
  • L. A. P. De Coninck1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414775


Macrobenthic and meiobenthic communities of an area off the Belgian coast of the North Sea were studied from 1970 until 1975 at 74 stations. On the basis of both macro- and meiobenthos, three zones can be distinguished in the area. The coastal zone is characterized by the macrobenthicAbra alba community, corresponding to the meiobenthicMicroarthridion littorale — Halectinosoma herdmani community, and the open sea zone by the macrobenthicVenus gallina community and the meiobenthicLeptastacus laticaudatus — Paramesochra helgolandica community. In between is a transient zone where elements of both other zones mix. The distribution of these zones is governed by the hydrodynamical regime of the region, especially by the residual and tidal current system of the Southern Bight. Within the coastal zone, the composition of the community is influenced by pollution which especially affects the epibenthic detritus-feeders of the meiobenthos. The spatial stability of parameters describing community structure can be used for monitoring changes. Temporal characteristics of these parameters could not be investigated properly, but diversity seems to be much stabler than biomass.