Abundance, population structure and production of macro-invertebrate shredders in a Mediterranean brackish lagoon, Lake Ichkeul, Tunisia
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AbstractAbundance, population structure and production of the macro-invertebrates belonging to the functional feeding group of the shredders were studied in the Ichkeul wetland, northern Tunisia, from July 1993 to April 1994. Mean above-ground macrophyte biomass was at a maximum in September followed by a complete breakdown of the Potamogeton pectinatus L. meadow from October onward due to high salinity following an exceptionally dry winter. Only the meadow of Ruppia cirrhosa (Petagna) Grande at Tinja remained in place. Abundance of Gammarus aequicauda (Martynov 1931), Idotea chelipes (Pallas 1766) and Sphaeroma hookeri Leach 1814 was significantly related to the R. cirrhosa biomass. Gammarus aequicauda presented two recruitment periods in spring and autumn, and S. hookeri a third one in winter. The population of I. chelipes was renewed during winter by continued reproduction without any spring generation. Recruitment of all three species was not very successful during the study period. Life span of all three species was between 12 and 15 months. Despite their relatively low biomass and production rate, the shredders have a key function in processing macrophyte matter to different trophic levels through fragmentation and accelerating the decomposition of macrophyte biomass accumulated at the end of the growth season in the Ichkeul lagoon.

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