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Sediment destabilizing and stabilizing bio-engineers on tidal flats: cascading effects of experimental exclusion
Volkenborn, N.; Robertson, D. M.; Reise, K. (2009). Sediment destabilizing and stabilizing bio-engineers on tidal flats: cascading effects of experimental exclusion. Helgol. Mar. Res. 63(1): 27-35. dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10152-008-0140-9
In: Helgoland Marine Research. Springer: Berlin; Heidelberg. ISSN 1438-387X, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keywords
    Bioturbation; Destabilization; Ecosystem management; Sediment stability; Arenicola marina (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Volkenborn, N.
  • Robertson, D. M.
  • Reise, K., more

Abstract
    Bioturbating lugworms (Arenicola marina) were excluded from 400 m² plots of intertidal sand which initiated sequences of direct and indirect changes in the structure of the benthic community. The sessile, tube-building species Polydora cornuta and Lanice conchilega took advantage of the absence of lugworms and settled preferentially on lugworm exclusion plots. The protruding tubes provided attachment for an ephemeral development of algal tufts (Berkeleya colonies and Enteromorpha thalli) which in turn enhanced settlement of the juvenile drifting clams Mya arenaria and Macoma balthica. This causal chain of enhanced bivalve settlement in the presence of above-ground structures, like animal tubes and algae, on lugworm exclusion plots occurred in 2 years at different tidal zones with different tube builders, algae and juvenile clams. A significant response of L. conchilega in a year with relatively low lugworm abundances at the entire site suggests that not only the actual absence of large bioturbators was responsible for the establishment of tube-dwelling species, but also a cumulative change of the sediment in exclusion plots since the onset of the experiment. While the sediment on lugworm plots remained permeable, fine particles and organic matter accumulated at exclusion plots. It is suggested that these differences in sediment characteristics were the product of divergent benthic engineering by sediment destabilizing lugworms on control plots and sediment stabilizing species on exclusion plots. Cumulative changes of the sedimentary habitat and cascading effects in the benthic community may explain the persistence of patches that are dominated by either sediment stabilizing or destabilizing species in the assemblage mosaic of intertidal sediments.

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