Relationships Among Sea-Floor Structure and Benthic Communities in Long Island Sound at Regional and Benthoscape Scales
Keywords:estuary, infauna, landscape ecology, soft-sediment, spatial scale
Long Island Sound is comprised of a rich and spatially heterogeneous mix of sea-floor environments which provide habitat for an equally diverse set of assemblages of soft-sediment communities. Information from recent research on the geomorphological and chemical attributes of these environments, as well as from studies of the hydrodynamics of the Sound, provide the opportunity to develop a landscape, or "benthoscape" framework for understanding the soft-sediment ecology of this estuary and for guiding future research focusing on structure and function at multiple spatial scales. This contribution reviews past research on benthic communities in Long Island Sound and addresses how they may be shaped by sea-floor characteristics at regional and benthoscape scales. At the regional scale (i.e. the entire Sound), differences in benthic community composition correspond to the distribution of general sedimentary environments. However, significant variation in community structure also occurs at the benthoscape scale (within regions) related to local variations in sediment properties, and physical and biogenic topographic features. Several topical areas in particular need further research in Long Island Sound, including temporal dynamics of benthic communities relative to sea-floor structure and the interaction between the dynamics of benthoscapes and hydrologic seascapes.