Infaunal Benthic Communities from the Inner Shelf off Southwestern Africa Are Characterised by Generalist Species

Infaunal communities of benthic macro-organisms (≥ 1mm length) were studied from 81 samples collected across nine sites to the north and south of the Orange River in the Benguela upwelling ecosystem in 2003, with a view to describing communities and understanding the drivers of regional community structure, as well as to document diversity and to examine geographic affinities. Although the fauna was dominated by polychaetes and peracarid crustaceans, patterns in community structure could only weakly be explained by the measured environment (~35%). This is attributed to the generalist nature of the species recovered, which were widely distributed amongst different sediments, water-depths and latitudes. The fauna is dominated by species that enjoy a widespread regional and global distribution and is characterised by relatively low diversity, which is discussed.