a1 El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal, Departamento de Ecología Acuática y Sistemática, Avenida Centenario Km 5.5 CP 77900 Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México
The construction of an artificial channel to a small embayment in the Chetumal Bay coastal lagoon complex, located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, provided an opportunity to evaluate how large environmental changes influenced the structure of a low diversity benthic system. The objective of this study was to demonstrate that despite the absence of previous baseline information, the artificial channel has induced measurable changes in the biodiversity patterns of a hard substrata benthic community. The experimental design took into account the environmental setting influencing local benthic community structure and the sources of variability as a result of different substrate types and water depth. Four localities with ten replicates each were surveyed, and the presence/absence of macrobenthic biota species recorded during the rainy season. Our analysis using permutational multivariate analysis of variance indicated a significant increase in species richness in locations adjacent to the artificial channel. The highest species richness (66 species) was observed in the immediate area adjacent to the artificial channel and where exclusive species density was three to six times (18 exclusive species) than those present in other localities (6, 5 and 3 species) away from the channel. The presence of six species of hard corals indicated that the artificial channel offers a more suitable habitat for marine organisms colonizing the area than the natural channel. This study indicates the relative significance of confinement in structuring coastal lagoon benthic assemblages in tropical systems. Our results are similar to other findings underscoring the rate of colonization of marine organisms as a relevant process to explain benthic assemblage gradients and the importance of spatial–temporal interactions. The changes in species diversity caused by the artificial channel were clearly identified based on a sampling design that incorporated the main sources of environmental variability (distance to channels, substrate type and depth). Our study further demonstrates that changes in benthic community structure in the Chetumal Bay lagoon complex, as a result of human impacts, can be assessed even when community structure data before impact are absent.
(Received July 29 2010)
(Accepted November 05 2010)
(Online publication December 23 2010)
c1 Correspondence should be addressed to: H.A. Hernández-Arana, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Unidad Chetumal, Departamento de Ecología Acuática y Sistemática, Avenida Centenario Km 5.5 CP 77900 Chetumal, Quintana Roo, México email: email@example.com