|What do species do in intertidal systems?|
Crowe, T.P. (2005). What do species do in intertidal systems?, in: Wilson, J.G. (Ed.) The intertidal ecosystem: the value of Ireland’s shores. pp. 115-133
In: Wilson, J.G. (Ed.) (2005). The intertidal ecosystem: the value of Ireland’s shores. Royal Irish Academy: Dublin. ISBN 1-904890-09-1. 206 pp., more
There is a surprising lack of targeted research into the effects of loss of biodiversity on functioning of marine ecosystems. General theoretical models have been developed and these have been tested in terrestrial systems, particularly grasslands, and in mesocosms. Findings have been controversial, however, with debate focussing on the role of species diversity per se as opposed to the role of particular species from specific functional groups (functional diversity). Marine systems process materials and energy quite differently from terrestrial systems and have a high degree of functional diversity. Specific models may therefore need to be developed for marine systems, and marine tests of general models could be valuable in resolving current ecological debates. Although targeted research is lacking, there is a considerable body of relevant work in intertidal systems and some of this research is reviewed here. Idiosyncratic effects of loss of species appear to be prevalent in intertidal systems, and removals of more than one species often result in interactive effects, suggesting a high degree of complexity and unpredictability. However, it is thought that idiosyncratic effects are more likely to occur in systems with ‘keystone’ species than in systems with weak or diffuse effects of consumers. Intertidal systems, particularly rocky shores, provide an ideal model system for research into effects of loss of diversity on ecosystem function. In addition to distinguishing the roles of species and functional diversity, intertidal research could also characterise intertrophic effects and relationships between the diversity of ecosystems and their stability and invasibility.