Abstract

La Mancha lagoon is connected to the Gulf of Mexico through an estuarine ephemeral inlet, a sand bar, which opens during the rainy season and closes during the late fall and the winter storm season. As the lagoon fills up with the permanent stream flow into its Southern part, the water level increases and the sand bar opens up, releasing huge volumes of water into the ocean and leaving the previously flooded intertidal zone exposed to drying. In this study, we described the spatial and temporal variations of structure and composition of the community living on the surface of red mangrove prop roots, related to the hydrodynamic of the estuarine inlet. Four red mangrove prop roots were collected every three months, over an annual period, at ten sampling stations. Water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, water depth and transparency were also measured at each sampling event. To describe the identity, abundance, biomass, and specific richness of epibiont coverage on the prop roots, measurements were taken at 10cm intervals (herein called “horizons”). A total of 59 632 specimens and a total biomass of 172g/cm2 were registered, and a maximum of eleven horizons presented at least one species of epibionts. Two species of polychaetes, 12 of mollusks and 14 of crustaceans were identified, with Mytilopsis leucophaeata as the most abundant, Ficopomatus miamiensis as the most common and Crassostrea rhizophorae with the highest contribution in biomass. Sampling effort was assessed using species accumulation curves, resulting that the efficiency was, in general, greater than 90% of the richness predicted by asymptotic models. The hydrodynamics of the estuarine inlet had a great influence on the environmental conditions of the lagoon and on the spatial and temporal variation of the epibiont community: (a) when the inlet is open, there is a North-South gradient in environmental parameters (b) when the inlet is closed and the water level increases, the epibionts especially the pioneer species F. miamiensis, occupied the highest horizons of prop roots, and (c) the abundance, biomass and richness of epibionts increased towards the deeper and less saline Southern part of the lagoon, as well as on permanently submerged horizons, and during the seasonal closure of the inlet. Variations in depth are determined by the hydrodynamic behavior of the estuarine inlet, suggesting that these factors are major biodiversity drivers of the epibiont community at La Mancha.

Keywords: ephemeral estuarine inlet, water depth, abundance, biomass, specific richness, mollusks, crustaceans, polychaetes, species accumulation curves