The different benthic size components (macrofauna, meiofauna and microfauna) of the coastal ecosystems are central in several ecosystem function. While macro- and meiofauna are linking organic material with predators, providing food to fish, microfauna play a crucial role in many global biogeochemical cycles. Benthic organisms have intricate relationships with their environment and can therefore be particularly impacted by environmental and anthropogenic disturbances. My PhD thesis aims to identify structural and functional responses of macro-, meio and microbenthos communities to abiotic and biotic stressors. An integrated analysis of size-class groups of benthic species that belong to different functional groups is seen as the best approach to understand coastal ecology and functioning.
In order to identify changes in community composition and diversity of benthic taxa, I am using a combination of traditional taxonomic assessment for macrofauna and metabarcoding DNA analyses for meio- and microfauna. In addition, to have different levels of understanding, I am combining quantitative field-based observational studies with field and aquarium experiments.
Key words: Benthic ecology, Functional diversity, Environmental stressors, Introduced species, DNA metabarcoding, Macrofauna, Meiofauna, Microfauna