Analysing the Role of Environmental Stresses on Species Richness and the Process of Hierarchical Structuring of Species Abundances in Marine Gastropods communities at Suva (Fiji Islands)

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Jean Béguinot

Abstract

Anthropogenic environmental stresses, especially physio-chemical pollution, are causing steadily increasing threat to many ecosystems, among which coastal marine communities in tropical shallow waters are especially sensitive. In particular, species-rich marine gastropod assemblages are doomed to bear sharp drops in species diversity when exposed to pollutants released offshore. Yet, the details of the process of decline in species diversity remain to be addressed and analysed more deeply. By addressing a series of previously reported inventories of marine gastropod communities along a sharp gradient of pollution along southern coast at Suva (Fiji Archipelago), I first confirm the already recognised trend towards both a severe decrease in species richness and a strong increase of the unevenness in species abundance distribution, as a response to incremental pollution. Yet, the last trend – increased unevenness – reveals being essentially the purely mathematical consequence of the concomitant decline in species richness. In fact, the genuine intensity of the process of hierarchical structuring of species abundances proves remaining virtually unaffected by environmental degradation, contrary to what has been generally thought so far. Also, another unexpected aspect of the decline in species richness with growing pollution is that this decline is far from being primarily restricted to the set of rarest species; in fact, the originally abundant species are also largely implied in this decline.

Moreover, considering separately the two co-occurring feeding guilds, it is shown that herbivores and carnivores are substantially involved the same in the drop in species diversity; as a result, their relative contributions in the community do not seem markedly contrasted by growing pollution. In another respect, a recently proposed paradigmatic hypothesis is supported, according to which the herbivore-guild has quite less numerous species with more unevenly distributed abundances, as compared to the carnivore-guild. Yet, once again, this increased unevenness is essentially the purely mathematical consequence of the concomitant decline in species richness; the genuine intensity of the process of hierarchical structuring of species abundances does remain substantially unchanged. At last, a comparatively extremely high sensitivity to pollution is highlighted for the emblematic genus Conus, which suffers, here, a dramatic drop in species diversity.

Keywords:
Coral reef, pollution, species diversity, ranked abundance distribution, incomplete inventory, evenness, unevenness, feeding guild.

Article Details

How to Cite
Béguinot, J. (2018). Analysing the Role of Environmental Stresses on Species Richness and the Process of Hierarchical Structuring of Species Abundances in Marine Gastropods communities at Suva (Fiji Islands). International Journal of Environment and Climate Change, 8(3), 200-233. https://doi.org/10.9734/ijecc/2018/v8i327169
Section
Original Research Article