Analysis of the functional and taxonomic diversity of macro-benthos on the Black Sea’s North-Western shelf based on biological traits (bioturbation potential).

Supervisors: Marie Lou Gregoire (Univ. Liege).
The aim of this work is to analyze the species distribution of the macro-benthic communities of the Black Sea’s North-Western shelf through a functional approach based on the species’ traits relating to their bioturbation potential. Statistical tools are used in order to analyze the functional (dis)similarities between species and the estimation of taxonomic and functional diversity indexes. At the same time, there is an analysis of the temporal variations in the macro-benthic community structures, through the comparison of data from three different years. The results show a marked difference in the distribution of the species for the year 1995 according to their bioturbation potential, as well as a difference in the abundance and distribution of species in between 1995 and the years 2016 and 2017. The results for the years 2016 and 2017 are not as clear. The differences observed in the functional composition and diversity indexes could be attributed to environmental conditions as well as seasonality. This is the first step into a deeper study to link the variations of macro-benthic species distribution and abundance in the Black Sea to environmental conditions, such as the impact of hypoxia in the benthic ecosystem.