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Intertidal mudflats are an important component of estuaries and they fringe large areas of the European coastlines. They form natural barriers protecting coastal areas from the sea and are biologically highly productive areas representing important nursery and feeding grounds for higher organisms including birds, fish and shellfish. Microphytobenthos assemblages are an important biological component of intertidal mudflats. These unicellular algae are active in a thin surface layer of the sediment that is subject to rapid fluctuations in light, temperature and salinity both over time and space. Microphytobenthos have a large impact on whole estuary functioning, for example, through their influence on the morphodynamics of coastal zones and by affecting sediment water nutrient exchange.
Although basic knowledge exists about the physiology and ecology of these organisms and their roles in ecosystem functioning, a more thorough understanding of these processes necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. This volume provides a valuable and up to date contribution to our current understanding of the microbial ecology in estuarine intertidal areas.
Proceedings of the Colloquium, Amsterdam, 21-23 August, 2003