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The use of ecosystem engineers to underpin ecosystem management: the Lanice conchilega case
Rabaut, M.; Vincx, M.; Degraer, S. (2008). The use of ecosystem engineers to underpin ecosystem management: the Lanice conchilega case, in: Mees, J. et al. (Ed.) VLIZ Young Scientists' Day, Brugge, Belgium, 29 February 2008: book of abstracts. VLIZ Special Publication, 40: pp. 61
In: Mees, J.; Seys, J. (Ed.) (2008). VLIZ Young Scientists' Day, Brugge, Belgium, 29 February 2008: book of abstracts. VLIZ Special Publication, 40. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. ix, 96 pp., more
In: VLIZ Special Publication. Vlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ): Oostende. ISSN 1377-0950, more

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Document types: Conference paper; Summary

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Abstract
    Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been proposed as a valuable tool to apply the ecosystem approach while the amount of information needed to manage systems in a sustainable way is often perceived as insufficient. Our study provides information on how scientific data can be used and on how to deal with the complexity of the system. The strategy focuses on small-scale, short-term studies on a limited set of organisms. Organisms investigated are chosen because of their supposed horizontal and vertical links with other (groups of) organisms and because of their (direct or indirect) economic value. This strategy was applied for the Belgian part of the North Sea using the bioengineering polychaete Lanice conchilega. The ecological importance of this species relates to its modulation mechanisms (such as the elevation, the consolidation of the sediment, the spatial extent and the patchiness). Increased habitat complexity provides favourable conditions for other infaunal species. These species attract on their turn other predatory infauna. The analyses of the associated species indicate that biodiversity and productivity increase in areas where L. conchilega occurs (species richness increases with factor three, while the macrobenthic density is seven times higher). Analyses for the Belgian part of the North Sea show that L. conchilega shapes the community composition by expanding the realized niche of species that otherwise occur in low densities. Besides the horizontal and vertical interaction within the benthic ecosystem, interactions with other ecosystem components may occur. Therefore, the interaction with juvenile flatfish (often species of high commercial value) and the resilience of the particular L. conchilega system to beam trawl flatfish fisheries is being investigated in a set of laboratory experiments. Results show that L. conchilega is relatively resistant to intermediate fishing pressure. However, species that are strongly associated with the L. conchilega aggregations are greatly impacted after fisheries disturbance. Intertidal field experiments showed that the most dominant associated species Eumida sanguinea was impacted very severely and that also the conchilega is an example of ready-to-use information for the marine management of the soft-bottom area of concern.

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