Sandy beaches represent two-thirds of littoral zones worldwide. Complex factors such as winds, waves, and sediment characterize this environment. Ciliophora is one of the most diversified unicellular eukaryotic phyla and, in marine sediments, can reach 40 species per cm³. Despite its importance, knowledge about interstitial communities is still lacking. In the present work, we characterized the assemblage of interstitial ciliates from sandy beaches in the north coastal area of Rio Grande do Sul state, southern Brazil. Fourteen sampling sites distributed along the swash zone of seven beaches with different degrees of urban development were sampled over the course of one year. At each site, eight sediment samples were taken, and a total of 51 species distributed in 37 ciliate genera were identified. Classes Spirotrichea (29%) and Karyorelictea (21%) accounted for 50% of ciliate species richness, with the highest richness being observed within the context of an intermediately urbanized setting. Community analyses revealed that ciliate community is influenced by urbanization degree and season, with distinct assemblages occurring in highly urbanized areas. In beaches affected by a high level of human activity, disturbance effects increased diversity, while in areas showing a milder influence of urbanization, the level of disturbance may be low, resulting in lower richness.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited