Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Geographic patterns of biodiversity in European coastal marine benthos

  • Herman Hummel (a1), Pim Van Avesaath (a1), Sander Wijnhoven (a1) (a2), Loran Kleine-Schaars (a1), Steven Degraer (a3), Francis Kerckhof (a3), Natalia Bojanic (a4), Sanda Skejic (a4), Olja Vidjak (a4), Maria Rousou (a5), Helen Orav-Kotta (a6), Jonne Kotta (a6), Jérôme Jourde (a7), Maria Luiza Pedrotti (a8), Jean-Charles Leclerc (a9), Nathalie Simon (a9), Fabienne Rigaut-Jalabert (a9), Guy Bachelet (a10), Nicolas Lavesque (a10), Christos Arvanitidis (a11), Christina Pavloudi (a11), Sarah Faulwetter (a11), Tasman Crowe (a12), Jennifer Coughlan (a12), Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi (a13), Martina Dal Bello (a13), Paolo Magni (a14), Serena Como (a14), Stefania Coppa (a14), Anda Ikauniece (a15), Tomas Ruginis (a16), Emilia Jankowska (a17), Jan Marcin Weslawski (a17), Jan Warzocha (a18), Sławomira Gromisz (a18), Bartosz Witalis (a18), Teresa Silva (a19), Pedro Ribeiro (a20), Valentina Kirienko Fernandes De Matos (a20), Isabel Sousa-Pinto (a21), Puri Veiga (a21), Jesús Troncoso (a22), Xabier Guinda (a23), Jose Antonio Juanes De La Pena (a23), Araceli Puente (a23), Free Espinosa (a24), Angel Pérez-Ruzafa (a25), Matt Frost (a26), Caroline Louise Mcneill (a26), Ohad Peleg (a27) and Gil Rilov (a27)...

Within the COST action EMBOS (European Marine Biodiversity Observatory System) the degree and variation of the diversity and densities of soft-bottom communities from the lower intertidal or the shallow subtidal was measured at 28 marine sites along the European coastline (Baltic, Atlantic, Mediterranean) using jointly agreed and harmonized protocols, tools and indicators. The hypothesis tested was that the diversity for all taxonomic groups would decrease with increasing latitude. The EMBOS system delivered accurate and comparable data on the diversity and densities of the soft sediment macrozoobenthic community over a large-scale gradient along the European coastline. In contrast to general biogeographic theory, species diversity showed no linear relationship with latitude, yet a bell-shaped relation was found. The diversity and densities of benthos were mostly positively correlated with environmental factors such as temperature, salinity, mud and organic matter content in sediment, or wave height, and related with location characteristics such as system type (lagoons, estuaries, open coast) or stratum (intertidal, subtidal). For some relationships, a maximum (e.g. temperature from 15–20°C; mud content of sediment around 40%) or bimodal curve (e.g. salinity) was found. In lagoons the densities were twice higher than in other locations, and at open coasts the diversity was much lower than in other locations. We conclude that latitudinal trends and regional differences in diversity and densities are strongly influenced by, i.e. merely the result of, particular sets and ranges of environmental factors and location characteristics specific to certain areas, such as the Baltic, with typical salinity clines (favouring insects) and the Mediterranean, with higher temperatures (favouring crustaceans). Therefore, eventual trends with latitude are primarily indirect and so can be overcome by local variation of environmental factors.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: H. Hummel, Monitor Taskforce, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), Yerseke, the Netherlands email:
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M.J. Attrill (2002) A testable linear model for diversity trends in estuaries. Journal of Animal Ecology, 71, 262269.

M.J. Attrill , R. Stafford and A.A. Rowden (2001) Latitudinal diversity patterns in estuarine tidal flats: indications of a global cline. Ecography 24, 318324.

G. Bachelet (1990) The choice of a sieving mesh size in the quantitative assessment of marine macrobenthos: a necessary compromise between aims and constraints. Marine Environmental Research 30, 2135.

C. Beaugrand , P.C. Reid , F. Ibanez , J.A. Lindley and M. Edwards (2002) Reorganization of North Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate. Science 296, 16921694.

E. Bonsdorff (2006) Zoobenthic diversity-gradients in the Baltic Sea: continuous post-glacial succession in a stressed ecosystem. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 330, 383391.

A. Bricaud , E. Bosc and D. Antoine (2002) Algal biomass and sea surface temperature in the Mediterranean Basin. Intercomparison of data from various satellite sensors, and implications for primary production estimates. Remote Sensing of Environment 81, 163178.

M. Coll , C. Piroddi , J. Steenbeek , K. Kaschner , F. Ben Rais Lasram , J. Aguzzi , E. Ballesteros , C.N. Bianchi , J. Corbera , T. Dailianis , R. Danovaro , M. Estrada , C. Froglia , B.S. Galil , J.M. Gasol , R. Gertwagen , J. Gil , F. Guilhaumon , K. Kesner-Reyes , M.S. Kitsos , A. Koukouras , N. Lampadariou , E. Laxamana , C.M. López-Fé de la Cuadra , H.K. Lotze , D. Martin , D. Mouillot , D. Oro , S. Raicevich , J. Rius-Barile , J.I. Saiz-Salinas , C. San Vicente , S. Somot , J. Templado , X. Turon , D. Vafidis , R. Villanueva and E. Voultsiadou (2010) The biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: estimates, patterns, and threats. PLoS ONE 5, e11842.

M.J. Costello , P. Bouchet , G. Boxshall , K. Fauchald , D. Gordon , B.W. Hoeksema , G.C.B. Poore , R.W.M. van Soest , S. Stöhr , T.C. Walter , B. Vanhoorne , W. Decock and W. Appeltans (2013) Global coordination and standardisation in marine biodiversity through the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) and related databases. PLoS ONE 8, e51629. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051629.

T. Couto , J. Patricio , J.M. Neto , F.R. Ceia , J. Franco and J.C. Marques (2010) The influence of mesh size in environmental quality assessment of estuarine macrobenthic communities. Ecological Indicators 10, 11621173.

G. De Falco , P. Magni , L. Teräsvuori and G. Matteucci (2004) Sediment grain size and organic carbon distribution in the Cabras lagoon (Sardinia, west Mediterranean). Chemistry and Ecology 20, S367S377.

V. Escaravage , P. M. J. Herman , B. Merckx , M. Wlodarska-Kowalczuk , J. M. Amouroux , S. Degraer , A. Grémare , C. H. R. Heip , H. Hummel , I. Karakassis , C. Labrune and W. Willems (2009) Distribution patterns of macrofaunal species diversity in subtidal soft sediments: biodiversity-productivity relationships from the MacroBen database. Marine Ecology Progress Series 382, 253264.

S.P. Ferraro and F.A. Cole (2004) Optimal benthic macrofaunal sampling protocol for detecting differences among four habitats in Willapa Bay, Washington, USA. Estuaries 27, 10141025.

K.J. Gaston (2000) Global patterns in biodiversity. Nature 405, 220227.

H. Hillebrand (2004) On the generality of the latitudinal diversity gradient. American Naturalist 163, 192211.

H. Hummel , R.H. Bogaards , G. Bachelet , F. Caron , J.C. Sola and C. Amiard-Triquet (2000) The respiratory performance and survival of the bivalve Macoma balthica at the southern limit of its distribution area: a translocation experiment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 251, 85102.

J. Hyland , L.W. Balthis , I. Karakassis , P. Magni , A. Petrov , J.R. Shine , O. Vestergaard and R. Warwick (2005) Organic carbon content of sediments as an indicator of stress in the marine benthos. Marine Ecology Progress Series 295, 91103.

J.M. Jansen , S.A.E. Pronker , S. Kube , A. Sokolowski , J.C. Sola , M. Marquiegui , D. Schiedek , M. Wolowicz , S. Wendelaar Bonga and H. Hummel (2007) Geographic and seasonal patterns and limits in the adaptive response to temperature of European Mytilus spp. and Macoma balthica populations. Oecologia 154, 2334.

S.R. Jenkins , P. Moore , M.T. Burrows , D.J. Garbary , S.J. Hawkins , A. Ingolfsson , K.P. Sebens , P.V.R. Snelgrove , D.S. Wethey and S.A. Woodin (2008) Comparative ecology of North Atlantic shores: do differences in players matter for process? Ecology 89 (Supplement), S3S23.

C. Lejeusne , P. Chevaldonne , C. Pergent-Martini , C.F. Boudouresque and T. Perez (2010) Climate change effects on a miniature ocean: the highly diverse, highly impacted Mediterranean Sea. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25, 250260.

S. Levitus , J.I. Antonov , O.K. Baranova , T.P. Boyer , C.L. Coleman , H.E. Garcia , A.I. Grodsky , D.R. Johnson , R.A. Locarnini , A.V. Mishonov , J.R. Reagan , C.L. Sazama , D. Seidov , I. Smolyar , E.S. Yarosh and M.M. Zweng (2013) The world ocean database. Data Science Journal 12, WDS229WDS234.

P. Magni , G. De Falco , S. Como , D. Casu , A. Floris , A.N. Petrov , A. Castelli and A. Perilli (2008) Distribution and ecological relevance of fine sediments in organic-enriched lagoons: the case study of the Cabras lagoon (Sardinia, Italy). Marine Pollution Bulletin 56, 549564.

P. Magni , S. Rajagopal , S. Como , J.M. Jansen , G. van der Velde and H. Hummel (2013) δ13C and δ15N variations in organic matter pools, Mytilus spp. and Macoma balthica along the European Atlantic coast. Marine Biology 160, 541552.

N. Mieszkowska , M.A. Kendall , S.J. Hawkins , R. Leaper , P. Williamson , N.J. Hardman-Mountford and A.J. Southward (2006) Change in the range of some common rocky shore species in Britain – a response to climate change? Hydrobiologia 555, 241251.

M. Nordström , P. Lindblad , K. Aarnio and E. Bonsdorff (2010) A neighbour is a neighbour? Consumer diversity, trophic function, and spatial variability in benthic food web. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 391, 101111.

H.L. Rees (1984) A note on mesh selection and sampling efficiency in benthic studies. Marine Pollution Bulletin 15, 225229.

B.G. Reguero , M. Menéndez , F.J. Méndez , R. Mínguez and I.J. Losada (2012) A Global Ocean Wave (GOW) calibrated reanalysis from 1948 onwards. Coast England 65, 3855.

P.E. Renaud , T.J. Webb , A. Bjørgesæter , I. Karakassis , M. Kędra , M.A. Kendall , C. Labrune , N. Lampadariou , P.J. Somerfield , M. Włodarska-Kowalczuk , E. Van den Berghe , S. Claus , I.F. Aleffi , J.M. Amouroux , K.H. Bryne , S.J. Cochrane , S. Dahle , S. Degraer , G. Denisenko , T. Deprez , C. Dounas , D. Fleischer , J. Gil , A. Grémare , U. Janas , A.S.Y. Mackie , R. Palerud , H. Rumohr , R. Sardá , J. Speybroeck , S. Taboada , G. Van Hoey , J.M. Węsławski , P. Whomersley and M.L. Zettler (2009) Continental-scale patterns in benthic invertebrate diversity: insights from the MacroBen database. Marine Ecology Progress Series 382, 239252.

M.A. Rex , C.T. Stuart and G. Coyne (2000) Latitudinal gradients of species richness in the deep-sea benthos of the North Atlantic. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 97, 40824085.

K. Rohde (1992) Latitudinal gradients in species diversity: the search for the primary cause. Oikos 65, 514527.

K. Roy , D. Jablonski , J.W. Valentine and G. Rosenberg (1998) Marine latitudinal diversity gradients: tests of causal hypotheses. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 95, 36993702.

F.G. Stehli , A.L. McAlester and C.E. Helsley (1967) Taxonomic diversity of recent bivalves and some implications for geology. Geological Society of America Bulletin 78, 455466.

M.R. Willig , D.M. Kaufman and R.D. Stevens (2003) Latitudinal gradients of biodiversity: pattern, process, scale, and synthesis. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 34, 273309.

M.L. Zettler , A. Karlsson , T. Kontula , P. Gruszka , A.O. Laine , K. Herkül , K.S. Schiele , A. Maximov and J. Haldin (2014) Biodiversity gradient in the Baltic Sea: a comprehensive inventory of macrozoobenthos data. Helgoland Marine Research 68, 4957.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
  • ISSN: 0025-3154
  • EISSN: 1469-7769
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-marine-biological-association-of-the-united-kingdom
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 8
Total number of PDF views: 108 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 682 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 14th September 2016 - 16th August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.