Patterns of the distribution of intertidal fauna in relation to the diversity of habitats were studied in the UNESCO Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserve of the archipelago of Molene and Ouessant (west Brittany, France). A classification of environmental features was developed in order to determine species richness, abundance, biomass and trophic structure of the macrobenthic fauna in this intertidal area which covers 1120 ha. The four descriptors of the environment were: (1) substratum (rock, boulders, sediment, pebbles); (2) height on the shore, based on the macrophytic zones: Pelvetia canaliculata/Fucus spiralis; Fucus vesiculosus / Ascophyllum nodosum; Fucus serratus; and Himanthalia elongata/Zostera marina; (3) wave exposure (sheltered, semi-sheltered, exposed); (4) percentage of algal cover (<50%, >50%). Each type was defined by a four-figure number and matched to a map codification. A two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and a posteriori Newman-Keuls test (P=0.05) were applied to the series of species richness and biomass. Among the 308 species sampled, 40 represented 90% of the total biomass. Maximal number of species was reached in boulder fields in the Himanthalia zone, under exposed conditions and high algal cover. The lowest number of species was observed in pebble fields of the Pelvetia zone and in the sedimentary areas. Trophic structures were dominated by suspension feeders and herbivores at high levels on the shore and by carnivores at the lowest levels. High vegetation cover and wave-exposed conditions were shown to increase with increasing faunal diversity. Links between patterns of habitat distribution and faunal diversity and biomass in different spatial scales are discussed.
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