Date of this Version
PeerJ 3: e1014.
Submitted April 6, 2015; accepted May 20, 2015; published June 16, 2015.
Academic editor Linsheng Song.
Related data available in Dryad, doi: 10.5061/dryad.j2c13
Supplemental information for this article can be found online at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.7717/peerj.1014#supplemental-information
Benthic infaunal communities are important components of coastal ecosystems. Understanding the relationships between the structure of these communities and characteristics of the habitat in which they live is becoming progressively more important as coastal systems face increasing stress from anthropogenic impacts and changes in climate. To examine how sediment characteristics and infaunal community composition were related along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, we sampled intertidal infaunal communities at seven sites covering common habitat types at a regional scale. Across 69 samples, the communities clustered into four distinct groups on the basis of faunal composition. Nearly 70% of the variation in the composition of the communities was explained by salinity, median grain size, and total organic content. Our results suggest that at a regional level coarse habitat characteristics are able to explain a large amount of the variation among sites in infaunal community structure. By examining the relationships between infaunal communities and their sedimentary habitats, we take a necessary first step that will allow the exploration of how changes in habitat and community composition influence higher trophic levels and ecosystem scale processes.