Diversity and spatial heterogeneity of mangrove associated sponges of Curaçao and Aruba
Sponges are major epibionts of mangrove roots in the Caribbean. Mangrove sponge communities in the Caribbean mainly consist of species that are typical to this habitat and community compositions often differ from those found on coral reefs nearby. Heterogeneity in species distributions between locations and within locations between roots is often reported. This study quantifies the diversity and abundance of mangrove associated sponges in the inner bays of Curaçao and Aruba and correlates variability of regional sponge diversity with environmental variables measured along the surveyed sites. Tannin concentrations vary between mangrove roots, and were correlated to sponge cover as a possible cause for habitat heterogeneity on a smaller scale. A total of 22 species was observed. Heterogeneity in species richness and abundance was apparent, and several sponge species were restricted in their depth of occurrence. Statistical data reduction suggests that sponge diversity may be partly explained by the distance towards adjacent reefs and to the degree of eutrophication, in which the latter is comprised of rate of planktonic respiration, total carbon and turbidity. Tannin concentrations did not determine within locality species heterogeneity as a priori postulated, but were positively related to sponge cover for reasons not yet elucidated.