Skip to main content

Data from: A meta-analysis reveals global patterns of sediment effects on marine biodiversity

Cite this dataset

Magris, Rafael A.; Ban, Natalie C. (2019). Data from: A meta-analysis reveals global patterns of sediment effects on marine biodiversity [Dataset]. Dryad.


Sediment disturbances are important threats affecting marine biodiversity, but the variety of biological responses have not yet been synthesized. Here, we collate all available information to compare the extent of impacts across different taxonomic groups, habitat types, and pathways of impact (light attenuation, suspended sediment and sedimentation). Global 1979-2017 Coral, fish, seagrass, sponge, macroalgae, ascidian, bryozoan, crustacean, echinoderm, mollusc, polychaeta We used meta-analyses to evaluate the effects of sediments across 842 observations found in 110 publications. We also evaluated some of the biological and methodological factors that could explain the variable effects observed in different studies. We found a significant negative effect of sediments on behavioural responses, reproduction and recruitment, organism’s morphology, physiology, community abundance and diversity, and species interactions. In contrast, the overall effect on abundance of individual species was statistically non-significant and there was a strong positive effect on abundance for sponge and polychaete species. Many individual studies described physiological effects on coral reefs, but effects on diversity of soft-bottom and coral reef communities were particularly detrimental. Phototrophic species were generally more negatively impacted by sediments than heterotrophs, driven by strong physiological responses in crustose coralline algae and seagrass. Additionally, species with limited mobility were more vulnerable to sediment disturbances than highly mobile species. Sedimentation alone triggered more consistently negative effects on most biological responses than light depletion and suspended sediments. We found evidence for increased impacts on community diversity when more than one pathway of impact was present, indicating that these disturbances can disrupt whole ecosystems. Our meta-analysis for the first time provided strong quantitative support of negative effects of sediments on marine biodiversity. Taxonomic groups, habitat types, and life history characteristics were most influential in determining biological responses to sediment disturbances, highlighting the importance of an ecosystem-based approach when fully accounting for the impacts of sediment

Usage notes