Benthic macrofaunal communities along an estuarine gradient of a macrotidal estuary of the Jiaojiang River, China were analyzed to reveal spatial variations in those communities and their relationships with environmental variables. Benthic macrofauna were collected from 15 sampling stations in May and October 2010. Polychaetes and Mollusks are the dominant taxonomic groups. The species richness, density and Shannon diversity index generally tended to increase as one moved away from shore toward the outer stations of the estuary. Cluster analysis and multidimensional scaling ordinations indicated the presence of three distinct zones of macrofaunal communities in the estuary. Multivariate analyses showed a strong relationship exists between the macrofaunal communities and the environmental parameters in the Jiaojiang River estuary. Aside from salinity, dissolved inorganic nitrogen and soluble reactive phosphate contents were also the major factor affecting the structure of the macrofaunal communities. The results demonstrated the important effects of nutrient-load on the distributional patterns of benthic macrofaunal communities in nutrient-rich estuaries.

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