Conservation

Conservation efforts almost always target large mammals and socio-economically important species, but nematodes are increasingly used to understand environments and aid the development of conservation priorities.

Meiofauna, of which nematodes are part, can be used to assess very different habitats which may have only few or dissimilar macrofaunal assemblages.

Nematodes are usually dominant and have a relatively high diversity over all types of marine habitats. Their assemblages are sensitive to many changes in their environment including changes in sediment type, salinity, temperature, oxygen and wave energy.

There are usually relatively high numbers of nematodes in small samples, so meaningful statistical analysis of the biodiversity can be undertaken without deleterious impact on the environment or its inhabitants.

An example of such a study was undertaken on the east African coast, from South Africa through Mozambique to Tanzania, to support the creation of trans-boundary networks of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The 3 most dominant habitats on this coastline - beaches, mangroves and seagrasses - were studied in 2 ‘regions’ (northern region, 10–13º S; southern region, 25–28º S).  

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Glossary
Meiofauna

Multi-cellular animals that can be caught in a sieve with a 0.045mm square mesh. Although they are traditionally considered to be less than 1mm long, some adults may be much bigger.

Macrofauna

Multi-cellular animals that can be caught in a sieve with a 0.5mm square mesh. In the deep sea these animals tend to be smaller and a 0.3mm square mesh is used.