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Ecosystem engineers stabilize sand bank systems: Owenia fusiformis aggregations as ecologically important microhabitat
Rabaut, M.; Du Four, I.; Nakas, G.; Van Lancker, V.R.M.; Degraer, S.; Vincx, M. (2009). Ecosystem engineers stabilize sand bank systems: Owenia fusiformis aggregations as ecologically important microhabitat, in: Rabaut, M. Lanice conchilega, fisheries and marine conservation: Towards an ecosystem approach to marine management. pp. 273-297
In: Rabaut, M. (2009). Lanice conchilega, fisheries and marine conservation: Towards an ecosystem approach to marine management. PhD Thesis. Ghent University: Gent. ISBN 978-90-8756-025-6. xvii, 354 pp., more

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Keywords
    Ecosystem management; Multibeam sonar; Remote sensing; Sediment stability; Side scan sonar; Owenia fusiformis Delle Chiaje, 1844 [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Rabaut, M., more
  • Du Four, I., more
  • Nakas, G.
  • Van Lancker, V.R.M., more
  • Degraer, S., more
  • Vincx, M., more

Abstract
    Ecosystem engineers modify the physical environment and have profound effects on ecosystem functioning and on local biodiversity. Yet, in soft bottom marine environments, they have rarely been included in hydrodynamic studies or in management strategies. The lack of quantified stabilization potential and ecological impact are, respectively, the main reasons for not including ecosystem engineers. The present study evaluates the ecosystem engineering capacity of the tube dwelling polychaete Owenia fusiformis. The ecological implications of aggregations of this species are investigated using a long term dataset (1994- 2006). Results show that its presence has significant implications for species richness and species density. These aggregations are further investigated with different remote sensing tools. Owenia fusiformis is able to stabilize sand dunes that normally migrate 12 m a year. Specific biological characteristics explain the stabilizing effects in a highly dynamic environment. Our results confirm the need to pay attention to biota in sediment transport modelling. We conclude that O. fusiformis creates an important marine system which can be investigated with sensing techniques. These techniques can therefore be used to visualize hotspots of biodiversity, to quantify their biogeomorphological impacts and to underpin ecosystems based management in the marine environment.

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