An ecological study of the intertidal invertebrates of the Humber Estuary

Ratcliffe, Peter John

February 1979

Thesis or dissertation

© 1979 Peter John Ratcliffe. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

There is little detailed information on the intertidal invertebrate fauna of the Humber estuary. This thesis describes the distribution and abundance of the intertidal macro- and meiofauna in three areas of the estuary. A number of environmental parameters have also been examined in detail and an attempt has been made to assess their importance in determining patterns of faunal distribution and abundance.

Sampling was carried out from September 1973 to April 1976. Samples of fauna and sediment were taken initially every fortnight and later, every month at three regular sample sites. Samples were also taken along transects running down the shore. Temperature, salinity, sediment height (an indication of sediment mobility), sediment particle size and organic content were also measured at regular intervals.

Detailed studies of the distribution pattern, life history, biomass and production of the three abundant macrofaunal species: Macoma balthica, Nereis diversicolor and Corophium volutator were made and compared with other published studies of these species. Rough estimates of the biomass and production of the commoner remaining species were also made so that figures for total secondary production could be obtained.

Manipulative field experiments indicated that water and sediment movement were of primary importance in determining the distribution and abundance of Nereia diversicolor and Corophium volutator. Conclusions reached using field experiment. agreed well with those obtained by correlation of faunal distributions with hydrographic and sediment characteristics. Bird exclusion experiment. failed to show that bird predation was a major mortality factor for Nereis diversicolor and Corophium volutator.

Changes in communities down the beach and between different areas were considered to be more consistent with a continuum hypothesis of
faunal distribution rather than a discrete community type hypothesis.

The relative importance of the environmental factors studied has been discussed with respect to the distribution and abundance of the fauna.

Department of Zoology, The University of Hull
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