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An Undergraduate Thesis Proposal

Submitted to the Faculty of the College of Fisheries
Mindanao State University of General Santos City
Tambler, General Santos City

In Partial Fulfilment of the

Requirements for the Degree of
Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology

January 2017
I. Introduction

Meiobenthos, also called meiofauna, are small benthic invertebrates that live in

both marine and fresh water environments and are considered numerically dominant

metazoans (Hongayo et al., 2012). They are defined by their body size (44-1000 m)

and are the most diversified element of the marine biota: as many as 24 of the 35

animal phyla have meiobenthic representatives which live in meiofauna, whether for all

their life or just temporarily (Commito et al., 2002).

The meiofauna are abundant and diverse even in habitats, such as estuaries,

which are subjected to considerable natural physical and chemical stress and where

only a small numbers of macrofauna species occurs (Sezgin et al., 2016). Meiofauna

reflect the quality of the ecosystem since they assumed key role in the food chain

serving as prey of higher trophic level organisms and in the cycling of nutrients.

Because of their sensitivity to the effects of urbanization, meiofauna will show the

effects of pollution faster and at lower concentrations than most other organisms, so

they are good indicators for the chemical pollution. In addition, the marine meiofauna is

often a very useful tool for biological monitoring since the community structure may be

sensitive to both natural and anthropogenic environmental disturbance (Harguinteguy et

al., 2012).

Pollution may also occur in offshore environments, such as drilling rigs and oil

platforms. When present in sufficient quantities, and under certain conditions, pollutants

influence the biota living within and at the sediment interface. While urbanization has

not occurred along all stretches of the coast, many coastal areas have already been

disrupted, and possibly changed, by the urbanization (Martinez, 2011).

Only few studies about meiofauna are conducted in the Philippines especially in

Sarangani Bay. Probably the main obstacles of studying benthic meiofauna are its small

size, together with difficulties in isolating the meiofauna from the sediments and the

identification of species belonging to different taxa (Harguinteguy et al., 2012).

Futhermore, the importance of meiofauna on ecosystem dynamics and the lack of

background information on them suggest the creation of baseline research (Hongayo et

al., 2012).

This study aims, therefore, to generate information about the meiofauna present

in the area and to observe the meiofaunal community structure of the selected estuarine

beach areas of Sarangani Bay to assess the possible anthropogenic impact. In general,

it is expected that the more anthropogenically impacted estuaries will show a change in

the community structure, with an increase in total meiofauna but a decrease in copepod

and nematode abundances (Martinez, 2011).

II. Objectives

This study aims:

To identify and observe the meiofaunal community structure in selected estuaries

of Sarangani Bay; and

To determine the physico-chemical parameters and the sediment characteristics

of the sample area

To assess if theres a possible anthropogenic impact on meiofauna by knowing

the community structure and the properties of the sediment and water of the area

III. Significance

The main importance of this study is to identify the meiofaunal taxa and observe

the meiofaunal community structure in estuaries of Sarangani Bay. The results of this

study will serve as baseline information of the meiofaunal taxa and their abundance.

Also, the meiofaunal community structure in different estuaries can be used to assess

the possible anthropogenic impact in the area. This raised awareness of the importance

of these interstitial organisms so that activities that directly or indirectly cause

disturbance will be taken into consideration. The importance of meiofauna on

ecosystem dynamics and the lack of background information on them suggest the

creation of baseline research, which `provide the first steps for a comprehensive

understanding of the effect of habitat loss, and fragmentation, since the state and

composition of meiofauna assemblages may reflect the general health of the marine

IV. Scope and Limitation

The study area is limited in the selected estuaries of Sarangani Bay. This study

will be limited to meiofauna taxa identification up to class level in selected

estuaries. Sampling will involve coring method. Salinity and temperature were the only

physical parameters taken. The variables measured for sediment analysis included

temperature, salinity, color and pH and sand-silt-clay percentage(include organic

matter). The data for each sample will be recorded for further analysis using community

structure comparison, ANOVA, and the nematode to copepod ratio(consider NMDS


V. Review of Related Literature

Meiofauna as a Bio-indicator

Meiofauna (321000m) are a heterogeneous ecological group, comprising over

24 phyla and occurring in very high numbers in sedimentary ecosystems (Balsamo et

al., 2010). It is the most abundant benthic group in the marine realm, and is thought to

be closely connected to other faunal compartments of the benthic system (Balsamo et

al., 2012). The two most abundant types of meiofauna are copepods and nematodes.

Copepods have a high dispersal rate, meaning that they spread out throughout the

sediment, and meiofauna in general are motile organisms that can move within the

sediment (Commito et al., 2002). Nematodes in particular inhabit every marine (and

terrestrial) habitat, display high species richness and abundance and are the most

dominant and diverse meiofaunal group. They are highly abundant, ubiquitous, have

short generation times, absence of a planktonic phase in their life cycles and have high

metabolic rates. These meiofaunal characteristics suggest a shorter response time and
their higher sensitivity to anthropogenic disturbances in aquatic habitats (Vedra, 2013).

Also, due to the different feeding strategies between species, information about the type

and strength of pollutants can be obtained by determining the differences between

species in a given area (Martinez, 2011). It is generally acknowledged that meiofauna,

and nematodes in particular, can be used as bio-indicators for environmental changes

(Balsamo et al., 2012; Meadows et al., 2015).

Community Structure

A community's structure can be described by its species richness, which is the

number of species present, and species diversity, which is a measure of both species

richness and species evenness (relative numbers). Community structure is influenced

by many factors, including abiotic factors, species interactions, level of disturbance, and

chance events (, 2017). Comparisons between the spatial

patterns of consumers and resources provide information on trophic interactions and the

spatial scales at which these interactions occur (Steyaert et al., 2003). In general,

according to (Martinez 2011), it is expected that the more anthropogenically impacted

estuaries will show a change in the community structure, with an increase in total

meiofauna but a decrease in copepod and nematode abundances.


An estuary is considered to be where a river empties into the sea/where a river

and the sea mix. These areas can have many various characteristics as they are not

only affected by ocean processes such as tides and waves, but are also affected by

freshwater runoff and sediment input from the terrestrial area (Martinez, 2011).
Estuaries are claimed to be one of the most productive non-cultivated ecosystems on

earth (Warwick and Gee, 1984). Estuarine intertidal flats are sites of intense biological

activity. The sediment surface is characterised by important in situ primary productivity

by benthic microalgae, with production rates typically in the order of 100 g C m2 yr1

(Herman et al., 2001). According to (Steyaert et al. 2003 & Heip et al. 1985), In general,

extremely high abundances of meiofauna, with nematodes always the dominant taxon,

are characteristic of sheltered muddy regions of estuaries.


Urbanization is the growth of an urban area, which can be seen by the building of

more housing, growth of industries, and increased human waste (Martinez, 2011).

Human activities, including industry, agriculture, mining, dredging, and dumping

introduce large amounts of pollutants into marine areas, causing permanent and

significant disturbance to and a major impact on ecosystems (Balsamo et al., 2012).

The benthic community generally responds to adverse ecological conditions, primarily

by undergoing: i) local extinctions; ii) compositional biocenosis and trophic group

changes; iii) assemblage modifications, which include changes in abundance and

diversity; iv) dwarfism (Lilliput effect); v) changes in reproduction capability; and vi)

cytological, biological and morphological variations (Balsamo et al., 2012).

VI. Materials and Methods

Piston corer(syringe) Chemicals:

Soil containers(stainless) Formalin

Water containers(stainless) Rose Bengal

pH meter Ethanol (70%)



63m sieve

Petri dishes


Wash Bottles


VI.1 Site Description

Sarangani Bay is a bay located on the southern tip of Mindanao in the

Philippines. Sarangani Bay has an area of about 449 km2, extending from Tampuan

Point in Maasim to Sumbang Point in Glan. The length of coastline between these

points is about 79 km. The average depth is 350m. This coupled with its wide opening

and the low discharge rates of rivers make Sarangani waters strongly oceanic in salinity

(De Jesus et al., 2001). Five estuaries were selected to be the study area, one in

Gensan and Glan, three in Malapatan. Four of the selected estuaries were considered

well traversed because of the adjacent human settlements and agricultural farms (fish

ponds and etc.). m

Figure 1. Selected Estuaries of Sarangani Bay

Figure 2. Aerial view of Buayan Estuary

V1.2 Sample Collection

General sample locations within each site were chosen. In both locations, four

samples were taken at various sites which are from mouth to head, based on distance

from the shore. To collect samples, cores with diameter 2.2cm were used to pick up

approximately 1-2cm depth of sediment, with four cores making up one total sample.

One sample will be taken in each site, with a total 5 samples (20 replicates) to be

examined. In soil analysis, five soil containers will be filled to be examined in the lab for

the presence of heavy metals (Zn,Cu,Pb) to confirm the pollution in the area.

VI.3 Sample Preservation

All the samples collected will be kept in a refrigerator overnight to preserve the

living organisms until processing in the lab the following day. To prepare the samples

for analysis, a solution of 10% Formalin and 1% Rose Bengal was measured out to

match the volume of sample, which was 22.8mL. This solution allowed for preservation

of the meiofaunal structures and staining of those structures for later viewing (Martinez,


VI.4 Sample Extraction and Identification

To analyze the samples, the samples were split into smaller portions to allow for

ease of counting with smaller volumes of organisms. These portions were each filtered

with filtered tap water in a 63m sieve, which was considered to be the lower size limit

of meiofauna for the purposes of this study. When there was no longer any material
falling through the sieve, the floating material was poured into a Petri dish, leaving sand,

plant material, and other large particles in the sieve. This procedure was used because

of the fact that the meiofauna are less dense than the sand and plant materials and so

they could be rinsed off the top of that material and poured out with the water. As this is

not an exact form of separation, the remaining sieve material was kept and later run

through the sieve again in an attempt to make sure that all present meiofauna were

collected in the Petri dishes (Martinez, 2011). The collected meiofaunal organisms

were examined and identified under the use of stereoscope using pictorial key

identification (Hongayo et al., 2012).

VI.5 Sediment Analysis

The sediment samples will be weighed and computed for % sand, % silt, % clay

using soil analyzer from the College of Engineering MSU-GSC.

VI.6 Data Analysis

The data for each sample was recorded for further analysis using community

structure comparison, ANOVA, and the nematode to copepod ratio (Martinez, 2011).

In this particular study, in determining the abundance, the formula of Smith and

Smith was used (Hongayo et al., 2012).

Number of individuals in a given species

Relative Abundance = 100

VII. References

Warwick, R. M. and J.M. Gee., Community structure of estuarine meiobenthos.

Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser.18:97-111, (1994).

Heip, C., M. Vincx, and G. Vraken., The ecology of marine nematodes.

Ocenogr. Mar. Biol. Ann. Rev. 23:399-489, (1985).

Vedra, S.A., Meiofauna bioindicator potentials: awareness and management

options of the coastal residents of misamis oriental, northern mindanao,

Philippines. International Journal of Research in BioSciences Vol. 2 Issue 4, pp.

(47-53), (2013).

Hongayo, M.C., Marine Meiofauna in Songculan Lagoon, Songculan, Dauis,

Bohol Philippines. Field biology (Bio 10), Mathematics and Natural Sciences

Department, College of Arts and Sciences, Holy Name University, Tagbilaran

City Bohol, Philippines. (2012).

Maria Balsamo, Federica Semprucci, Fabrizio Frontalini and Rodolfo Coccioni (2012).

Meiofauna as a Tool for Marine Ecosystem Biomonitoring, Marine Ecosystems,

Dr. Antonio Cruzado (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0176-5, InTech, Available from:


Balsamo, M., Albertelli, G., Ceccherelli, V.U., Coccioni, R., Colangelo, M.A., Curini

Galletti, M., Danovaro, R., DAddabbo, R., Leonardis,C., Fabiano, M., Frontalini,

F., Gallo, M., Gambi, C., Guidi, L., Moreno, M., Pusceddu, A., Sandulli, R.,

Semprucci, F., Todaro, M.A., & Tongiorgi, P.(2010). Meiofauna of the Adriatic
Sea: current state of knowledge and future perspective. Chemistry and Ecology,

Vol. 26, pp. 45 - 63.

Commito J.A. and Guglielmo T., Differential dispersal rates in an intertidal

meiofauna assemblage. ournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology

268 (2002) 237 256.

Martinez, M., Anthropogenic impacts on meiofauna in myrtle beach area estuaries.


Harguinteguy, C.A., Cofr, M.N., Pastor deWard, C.T., Change in the meiofauna

Community struCture of sandy beaches of the nuevo gulf(Chubut, argentina).

Volume 52(34):411422,( 2012).

Steyaert1, M.,, J. Vanaverbeke. , A. Vanreusel. , C. Barranguet , C. Lucas., and M.



de Jesus, E.A., D.A.D. Diamante-Fabunan., C. Nanola, A.T. White and H.J.

Cabangon. 2001. Coastal Environmental Profile of Sarangani Bay Area,

Mindanai, Philippines. Coastal Resource Manangement Project, Cebu City,

Philippines, 102p.


Particulars Quantity Unit Price Repetition Total

Fare (Alabel- Glan) 3 person 200 600

Fare (Alabel- Malapatan) 2 person 100 200

Fare (Alabel- Buayan) 2 person 50 100

Piston corer(syringe) 20 piece 200 4,000

Sediment analysis 5 sample 1,500 7,500

Soil containers(stainless) 25 piece 40 1,000

Water containers(glass) 5 piece 50 250

Laboratory Rent 1000 1,000

Rose Bengal(staining agent) 5 gram 50 250

Food 5 person 150 750

Contingency fund 2,000 2,000

TOTAL = 18,400