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Spatiotemporal variability in the structure of seagrass meadows and associated macrofaunal assemblages in southwest England (UK): Using citizen science to benchmark ecological pattern

Spatiotemporal variability in the structure of seagrass meadows and associated macrofaunal assemblages in southwest England (UK): Using citizen science to benchmark ecological pattern
Spatiotemporal variability in the structure of seagrass meadows and associated macrofaunal assemblages in southwest England (UK): Using citizen science to benchmark ecological pattern
Seagrass meadows underpin a variety of ecosystem services and are recognized as globally important habitats and a conservation priority. However, seagrass populations are currently impacted by a range of biotic and abiotic stressors, and many are in decline globally. As such, improved understanding of seagrass populations and their associated faunal assemblages is needed to better detect and predict changes in the structure and functioning of these key habitats. Here, we analyzed a large dataset—collected by recreational scuba divers volunteering on a citizen science project—to examine spatiotemporal patterns in ecological structure and to provide a robust and reliable baseline against which to detect future change. Seagrass (Zostera marina) shoot density and the abundance of associated faunal groups were quantified across 2 years at 19 sites nested within three locations in southwest UK, by collecting in situ quadrat samples (2,518 in total) during 328 dives. Seagrass shoot density and meadow fragmentation was comparable across locations but was highly variable among sites. Faunal abundance and assemblage structure varied between areas with or without seagrass shoots; this pattern was largely consistent between locations and years. Overall, increased seagrass density was related to increased faunal abundance and explained shifts in faunal assemblage structure, although individual faunal groups were affected differently. More broadly, our study shows that well‐funded and orchestrated citizen science projects can, to some extent, gather fundamental information needed to benchmark ecological structure in poorly studied nearshore marine habitats.
2045-7758
3958-3972
Smale, Dan A.
9be48b19-ad5f-4f40-87c8-e0bfa799584f
Epstein, Graham
672bb3a6-6393-47c3-b119-06a073afbf41
Parry, Mark
dc72a22e-874b-49f7-8d3b-bae5cb85a438
Attrill, Martin J.
d4e7f298-7ea5-4787-a74f-77c7e98415de
Smale, Dan A.
9be48b19-ad5f-4f40-87c8-e0bfa799584f
Epstein, Graham
672bb3a6-6393-47c3-b119-06a073afbf41
Parry, Mark
dc72a22e-874b-49f7-8d3b-bae5cb85a438
Attrill, Martin J.
d4e7f298-7ea5-4787-a74f-77c7e98415de

Smale, Dan A., Epstein, Graham, Parry, Mark and Attrill, Martin J. (2019) Spatiotemporal variability in the structure of seagrass meadows and associated macrofaunal assemblages in southwest England (UK): Using citizen science to benchmark ecological pattern. Ecology and Evolution, 9 (7), 3958-3972. (doi:10.1002/ece3.2019.9.issue-7).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Seagrass meadows underpin a variety of ecosystem services and are recognized as globally important habitats and a conservation priority. However, seagrass populations are currently impacted by a range of biotic and abiotic stressors, and many are in decline globally. As such, improved understanding of seagrass populations and their associated faunal assemblages is needed to better detect and predict changes in the structure and functioning of these key habitats. Here, we analyzed a large dataset—collected by recreational scuba divers volunteering on a citizen science project—to examine spatiotemporal patterns in ecological structure and to provide a robust and reliable baseline against which to detect future change. Seagrass (Zostera marina) shoot density and the abundance of associated faunal groups were quantified across 2 years at 19 sites nested within three locations in southwest UK, by collecting in situ quadrat samples (2,518 in total) during 328 dives. Seagrass shoot density and meadow fragmentation was comparable across locations but was highly variable among sites. Faunal abundance and assemblage structure varied between areas with or without seagrass shoots; this pattern was largely consistent between locations and years. Overall, increased seagrass density was related to increased faunal abundance and explained shifts in faunal assemblage structure, although individual faunal groups were affected differently. More broadly, our study shows that well‐funded and orchestrated citizen science projects can, to some extent, gather fundamental information needed to benchmark ecological structure in poorly studied nearshore marine habitats.

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Accepted/In Press date: 11 February 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 March 2019
Published date: 16 April 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 430797
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/430797
ISSN: 2045-7758
PURE UUID: f48ebae7-f821-40c0-b2d0-b2bca9f7d0fe

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Date deposited: 13 May 2019 16:30
Last modified: 11 Nov 2019 17:35

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