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Disturbance alters ecosystem engineering by a canopy-forming alga

Disturbance alters ecosystem engineering by a canopy-forming alga
Disturbance alters ecosystem engineering by a canopy-forming alga

Canopy-forming fucoid algae have an important role as ecosystem engineers on rocky intertidal shores, where they increase the abundance of species otherwise limited by exposure during low tide. The facilitative relationship between Ascophyllum nodosum and associated organisms was explored using a frond breakage experiment (100%, 50%, 25%, 0% intact-frond treatments) in southern England, to assess the consequences of disturbance. Understorey substratum temperature was on average 3°C higher in 0% and 25% intact-frond treatments than in plots with 50% and 100% intact fronds. Light (as PAR during low tide) doubled in 0% intact-frond treatments in comparison to other treatments (which had similar light levels). Mobile invertebrate species richness declined by on average 1 species per m2 in the treatments with only 25% and 0% intact fronds, and the abundance of Littorina obtusata declined by 2.4-4.2 individuals per m2 in the treatments with 25 and 0% intact fronds. Sessile taxa, including Osmundea pinnatifida and encrusting coralline algae, declined by half on average in the 0% intact-frond treatment. These results suggest that the ability of Ascophyllum to mediate environmental conditions to the understorey is the mechanism responsible for species distributed in the understorey (autogenic ecosystem engineering). The results of this study imply that a pulse disturbance resulting in a 50% breakage of Ascophyllum fronds significantly increases temperature and decreases the abundance of mobile invertebrates usually associated with Ascophyllum. Sessile taxa associated with Ascophyllum can, however, withstand disturbances down to 25% intact Ascophyllum fronds.

Ascophyllum nodosum, community, facilitation, foundation species, intertidal, macroalgae, marine
0025-3154
687-698
Pocklington, Jacqueline B.
f3ee42ba-e0a6-41c1-9ddd-386b0a3f3173
Jenkins, Stuart R.
63f5521f-fe3a-4dae-b582-4a6a8d3aa936
Bellgrove, Alecia
44a29d92-3866-451d-8890-90191fcd7b53
Keough, Michael J.
cc9aa98d-24c2-4f70-bea1-90e36a2e14f2
O'Hara, Tim D.
e8c3e821-9821-44a6-bcef-cf9e662a6e5d
Masterson-Algar, Patricia E.
42eab6f7-1d74-4ab6-93e2-81378e8a30f0
Hawkins, Stephen J.
758fe1c1-30cd-4ed1-bb65-2471dc7c11fa
Pocklington, Jacqueline B.
f3ee42ba-e0a6-41c1-9ddd-386b0a3f3173
Jenkins, Stuart R.
63f5521f-fe3a-4dae-b582-4a6a8d3aa936
Bellgrove, Alecia
44a29d92-3866-451d-8890-90191fcd7b53
Keough, Michael J.
cc9aa98d-24c2-4f70-bea1-90e36a2e14f2
O'Hara, Tim D.
e8c3e821-9821-44a6-bcef-cf9e662a6e5d
Masterson-Algar, Patricia E.
42eab6f7-1d74-4ab6-93e2-81378e8a30f0
Hawkins, Stephen J.
758fe1c1-30cd-4ed1-bb65-2471dc7c11fa

Pocklington, Jacqueline B., Jenkins, Stuart R., Bellgrove, Alecia, Keough, Michael J., O'Hara, Tim D., Masterson-Algar, Patricia E. and Hawkins, Stephen J. (2018) Disturbance alters ecosystem engineering by a canopy-forming alga. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 98 (4), 687-698. (doi:10.1017/S0025315416002009).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Canopy-forming fucoid algae have an important role as ecosystem engineers on rocky intertidal shores, where they increase the abundance of species otherwise limited by exposure during low tide. The facilitative relationship between Ascophyllum nodosum and associated organisms was explored using a frond breakage experiment (100%, 50%, 25%, 0% intact-frond treatments) in southern England, to assess the consequences of disturbance. Understorey substratum temperature was on average 3°C higher in 0% and 25% intact-frond treatments than in plots with 50% and 100% intact fronds. Light (as PAR during low tide) doubled in 0% intact-frond treatments in comparison to other treatments (which had similar light levels). Mobile invertebrate species richness declined by on average 1 species per m2 in the treatments with only 25% and 0% intact fronds, and the abundance of Littorina obtusata declined by 2.4-4.2 individuals per m2 in the treatments with 25 and 0% intact fronds. Sessile taxa, including Osmundea pinnatifida and encrusting coralline algae, declined by half on average in the 0% intact-frond treatment. These results suggest that the ability of Ascophyllum to mediate environmental conditions to the understorey is the mechanism responsible for species distributed in the understorey (autogenic ecosystem engineering). The results of this study imply that a pulse disturbance resulting in a 50% breakage of Ascophyllum fronds significantly increases temperature and decreases the abundance of mobile invertebrates usually associated with Ascophyllum. Sessile taxa associated with Ascophyllum can, however, withstand disturbances down to 25% intact Ascophyllum fronds.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 20 December 2016
e-pub ahead of print date: 23 January 2017
Published date: 1 June 2018
Keywords: Ascophyllum nodosum, community, facilitation, foundation species, intertidal, macroalgae, marine

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 421824
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/421824
ISSN: 0025-3154
PURE UUID: 906d81c3-423f-41fa-aa64-72029a8ef132

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Date deposited: 29 Jun 2018 16:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 00:42

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Contributors

Author: Jacqueline B. Pocklington
Author: Stuart R. Jenkins
Author: Alecia Bellgrove
Author: Michael J. Keough
Author: Tim D. O'Hara
Author: Patricia E. Masterson-Algar

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