Beta diversity of macroalgal communities around St. Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean

This study provides a baseline of the marine algal flora composition around St. Eustatius, Dutch Caribbean, by describing algal community structure in terms of species richness and beta diversity, and by providing a taxonomically reliable DNA barcode collection. A total of 156 species was found, including 91 that represent new records for St. Eustatius. Subtidal assemblages (126 species) and intertidal assemblages (48 species) showed little overlap. Algae assemblages in seagrass beds differed from those on hard substrates in species composition. In addition, seagrass communities contained a relatively high number of associated green algae species. Artificial substrates (such as shipwrecks) mimicked natural hard substrates in terms of species richness and composition, but missed some key species that characterize natural reef floras. Species accumulation curves and asymptotic species richness estimators show that the expected species richness is higher than the observed number of species, indicating that additional sampling is needed to record rare species. The phylogenetic trees provided in this study identified the presence of cryptic species and fills knowledge gaps in our understanding of Caribbean macroalgae.

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