An Approach to Assessing the Impact of Hurricane Matthew on Meiofaunal
Communities in Sandy Beach Environments
Hurricanes are natural periodic events that disrupt marine ecosystems
along their path, altering the distribution and abundance of organisms.
In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck the Santa Marta region and
impacted its coastal zone, yet there have been insufficient studies to
measure its effects. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of
Hurricane Matthew on the meiofaunal community in the Santa Marta region.
To achieve this, sediment samples were collected from the intertidal
zone of three beaches five days after the hurricane had passed. The
results were compared with previous data on the abundance and diversity
of taxonomic groups of intertidal meiofauna, as well as physicochemical
variables such as granulometry, organic matter, salinity, and water
temperature. Following Hurricane Matthew, the physicochemical variables
showed changes due to the effect of the cyclonic surge in the coastal
zone. The average organism density on the beaches ranged from 29.3 to
250.8 ind./10cm 2, which were lower values than those
recorded before the hurricane. However, the total number of recorded
taxa was 13, which is close to the 15 previously registered. The ANOSIM
test confirmed differences in the meiofaunal community before and after
Hurricane Matthew, with nauplius and copepod being the groups that
contributed the most to the dissimilarity between periods. The
environmental variables of organic matter and temperature best explained
the structure of the meiofaunal community after the natural phenomenon.
This study highlights the importance of meiofauna as a monitoring tool
for beaches and the effects of environmental disturbances such as
hurricanes, which are expected to become more common in coastal areas
due to climate change.