Multi-annual and seasonal patterns of waterbird assemblages in a Mediterranean coastal lagoon (El Mellah lagoon) of Northeastern Algeria

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Recently, Mediterranean coastal lagoons have raised considerable environmental concerns. Long-term studies of seasonal changes in waterbird assemblages are therefore extremely important in terms of ecological relevance and conservation of these sensitive ecosystems. An ornithological survey of four years was carried out in a typical costal wetland (El Mellah lagoon) of Northeastern Algeria. Intra-seasonal comparison of waterbird assemblages (diversity indices) demonstrates clear changes between the wintering and the breeding periods. It seems that the first one was rich in term of species number than the second season (43 against 24). In contrast, the breeding seasons were more equilibrate (high values of Simpson, Shannon and evenness index). Additionally, curves in the diversity/dominance diagram revealed that both wintering and breeding assemblages share the same characteristics of community structure, few dominant species (with intermediate relative abundance) and many rare species with the relative abundance lower than 0.1. Invertebrates (25 species) and piscivorous (11 species) are the most abundant guilds over the four years of study (no significant differences among years have been calculated). The marked decline in bird species diversity recorded in this study (in comparison with previous studies) is mainly due to salinity oscillations (due to aquaculture activities) and may be of concern to wetland managers and it might be useful to provide some guidelines about the characteristics that coastal lagoons have to follow in the construction process to enhance the biodiversity.

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