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Laboratoire d'Ecogéochimie des Environnements Benthiques
UMR 8222

Luuk van der Heijden (2015-2018)

Role of meiofauna in the functioning of soft-bottom coastal food webs

Director: Benoit Lebreton (LIENSs-La Rochelle University)
Co-director: Jadwiga Orignac (LECOB-UPMC)

The general aim of this PhD thesis will be to determine how changes of food source properties affect fluxes of organic matter in soft bottom coastal habitats. A particular attention will be paid to trophic relationships between food sources (i.e., benthic diatoms, detrital matter, and phytoplankton) and the meiobenthic consumers. Different bays and habitats, fuelled by very different food resources, will be compared. Two bays will be studied: the Marennes-Oléron Bay, dominated by mudflats, and the Sylt-Rømø Bight, mostly dominated by sandflats. Studied habitats will be mudflats (dominated by epipelic microalgae), sandflats (dominated by epipsammic microalgae) and seagrass beds (characterized by a mixture of epipelic and epipsammic microalgae and high quantities of detrital organic matter). Many studies have been carried out on the functioning of these two coastal ecosystems. As a result, food web models of the Marennes-Oléron Bay and of the Sylt-Rømø Bight have already been built mostly based on relationships between food resources and macrofauna. Results obtained during this PhD will be included into pre-existing models; to improve the knowledge about the role of meiofauna in soft-bottom ecosystems. Finally, this will allow determining what are gains or loss of ecosystem functions provided by meiofauna when sediment grain size is changing.


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