Small-scale macrobenthic community structure along asymmetrical sand waves in an underwater seascape

Chiu H. Cheng*, Bas W. Borsje, Olivier Beauchard, Sarah O'Flynn, Tom Ysebaert, Karline Soetaert*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Sand waves are dynamic and regular bedforms that are ubiquitous in sandy shelf seas. However, information about the ecological characteristics (e.g., benthic community structure) and their spatial variability within these habitats is very limited. To address this knowledge gap, we undertook a field campaign in summer 2017 to investigate the macrofaunal community composition of a sand wave area off Texel (Dutch part of the North Sea). Sand waves in this area were asymmetrical, with longer gentle slopes that were approximately double in length to the shorter steep slopes. The benthic distribution along the different parts of these sand waves was assessed by collecting a large number of box cores within a transect line (~1 km). We show considerable variability in the individual, biomass and taxon densities, which were all significantly higher on the steeper slopes of the sand waves. These results are consistent with the trends observed in both the abiotic parameters and video analysis that were measured in two recent studies at the same study area. Our results provide valuable insight into the small-scale patterns of variability in asymmetrical dynamic bedform environments, where gentle slopes seem to be primarily controlled by physical forces, while steep slopes are more under biotic control.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMarine Ecology
Issue number3
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • biogeomorphology
  • biological traits and functional traits
  • macrobenthos
  • sand waves


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