|Intense predation cannot always be detected experimentally: a case study of shorebird predation on nereid polychaetes in South Africa|
Kalejta, B. (1993). Intense predation cannot always be detected experimentally: a case study of shorebird predation on nereid polychaetes in South Africa. Neth. J. Sea Res. 31(4): 385-393
In: Netherlands Journal of Sea Research. Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ): Groningen; Den Burg. ISSN 0077-7579, more
The effect of predation by curlew sandpipers Calidris ferruginea L. and grey plovers Pluvialis squatarola (L.) on populations of nereid worms Ceratonereis keiskama (Day) and C. erythraeensis (Fauvel) was studied at the Berg River estuary, South Africa, by comparing observations of shorebird-foraging intensity with the results of a population study of two species of nereid worms within and outside bird exclosures. The study was carried out during the four-month period prior to northward migration of shorebirds. Population structure of the two nereid species differed considerably. Ceratonereis keiskama reproduced earlier than C. erythraeensis and only young individuals were present during the study. By contrast, old C. erythraeensis were available to the birds at the start of the experiment and young animals entered the population during the experiment. Despite selective predation on certain size classes of nereids by the birds, no significant changes in the population structure of either nereid were detected by the cage experiment. Numbers and biomass of both Ceratonereis spp. in paired controls and cages tracked each other and did not diverge as predicted. A consistent difference in the depth stratification of the two nereids may, however, have been due to predation pressure. Curlew sandpipers were calculated to remove 3112 nereids per m² during the three months, equivalent to 4.4 g (dry weight) per m². This represents 58% of the initial numbers and 77% of the initial biomass of nereids. Although predation on nereids by waders was exceptionally high at the Berg River estuary, any depletion in numbers or biomass of nereids caused by these predators was masked by the reproduction of the nereids. The fact that the predators' high energy requirements prior to northward migration coincide with the period of peak production of invertebrate prey makes the Berg River estuary an exceptionally favourable wintering area.