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Natural dynamics overshadow anthropogenic impact on marine fauna at an urbanised coastal embayment
Science of The Total Environment, Volume: 716, Start page: 137009
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Understanding vulnerabilities of coastal ecosystems facing anthropogenic use is a precondition for management decisions and development planning. This can be challenging in urbanised areas with multiple activities affecting different faunal communities. The aim of this study was to provide a holisti...
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Understanding vulnerabilities of coastal ecosystems facing anthropogenic use is a precondition for management decisions and development planning. This can be challenging in urbanised areas with multiple activities affecting different faunal communities. The aim of this study was to provide a holistic understanding of the relative importance of anthropogenic and natural variables for macroinfauna, epifauna and fish in a heavily modified waterbody (HMWB) designated under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD). The study area, Swansea Bay (Wales, UK), had two regularly dredged industrial ports, three estuaries, a wastewater discharge point and a dredge-spoil disposal site. Wave and tidal current models were constructed, and environmental data were gathered by field studies. Biota were assessed by grab sampling and dredging. Modelled and empirical data were combined in a Distance-based Linear Model (DistLM) that quantified how much of the faunal variation was explained by wave exposure and tidal currents, sediment characteristics and other environmental factors, and by anthropogenic usage. Wave and tidal current parameters explained over 50% of the variation in all biota. Infauna communities were further linked with sediment properties and epibenthos with distance to estuaries. Fish and epibenthos were affected by a dredge-spoil disposal site, but none of the faunal communities was affected by the wastewater outfall. Biota were predominantly driven by the natural hydrodynamic regime while anthropogenic factors had secondary influence. The study highlighted that ecosystems driven by a strong hydrodynamic regime can be relatively resistant to human activities.
Wave model, Tidal currents, Benthos, Swansea Bay UK, Benthic community structure, Heavily modified waterbody, Urban coast
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