The effect of depth and sediment type on the spatial distribution of shallow soft-bottom amphipods along the southern Portuguese coast

Susana Carvalho*, Marina R. Cunha, Fábio Pereira, P. Pousão-Ferreira, M. N. Santos, M. B. Gaspar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The present study provides updated information on amphipod assemblages of the southern Portuguese coast, the most south-western part of continental Europe. The influence of depth and sediment type on the spatial distribution of shallow soft-bottom amphipods was tested by means of univariate and multivariate methods. Samples were collected down to 40 m depth within areas ranging from very fine sand to gravel. The ratio between density and diversity was found to increase with depth and from coarser to finer sediments. Both physical variables tested were found to play a major role in structuring amphipod assemblages. However, some dominance of depth was evident as samples were mainly separated according to this variable. Moreover, while only 15 taxa were common to all depth levels, 35 were collected from all sediment types. Both depth and sediment type may override the potential effects of geographical location, as samples from different areas along the southern Portuguese coast were biologically related. A peculiar habitat was sampled in this study: a maerl bed, which was confirmed to be a hotspot of density. Nevertheless, this habitat did not harbor a distinct amphipod assemblage but some taxa such as Caprella spp., Lembos websteri, lysianassids and Gammarella fucicola were preferentially collected there. The biogeographical analysis pointed out the occurrence of 8% of Mediterranean endemic species, confirming the influence of the Mediterranean Sea beyond the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Atlantic-Mediterranean feature of the amphipod fauna of this geographically relevant area. The present results support the need to interpret the spatial distribution patterns of marine species in relation to the combined effect of depth and sediment characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-501
Number of pages13
JournalHelgoland Marine Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The major part of the data was provided by diVerent research projects, namely: DREDGIMPACT (POCTI/MGS/ 42319/2001); Implantação e Estudo Integrado de Sistemas Recifais (carried out within the MARE program); Estação Piloto de Aquicultura OV-Shore (22-04-06-IFP-002 carried out within the MARE program). Part of this work also had the institutional support of INAG-National Water Institute (Portugal). The authors are grateful to all the colleagues who assisted in sampling campaigns and processing macrobenthic samples (to name a few, A. Moura, J. Tata Regala, F. Leitão, P. Pereira, R. Constantino, L. Cancela da Fonseca) and T. Drago for sediment characterization. Thanks are also due to the crew of RV DONAX and the technicians T. Simões, J. L. SoWa and M. L. Inácio for help during sampling. Susana Carvalho beneWts from a post-doctoral grant (SFRH/ BPD/26986/2006) awarded by “Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnolo-gia” (FCT).


  • Amphipoda
  • Benthos
  • Biogeography
  • Depth
  • Sediment
  • Soft bottom
  • Southern Portuguese coast
  • Spatial distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Aquatic Science


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