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Spatially Extended Habitat Modification by Intertidal Reef-Building Bivalves has Implications for Consumer-Resource Interactions
van der Zee, E.M.; van der Heide, T.; Donadi, S.; Eklöf, J.S.; Eriksson, B.K.; Olff, H.; van der Veer, H.W.; Piersma, T. (2012). Spatially Extended Habitat Modification by Intertidal Reef-Building Bivalves has Implications for Consumer-Resource Interactions. Ecosystems 15(4): 664-673. dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10021-012-9538-y
In: Ecosystems. Springer: New York, NY. ISSN 1432-9840, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in  Authors 

Keywords
    Charadriiformes [WoRMS]; Crassostrea gigas (Thunberg, 1793) [WoRMS]; Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]
Author keywords
    ecosystem engineer; Mytilus edulis; Crassostrea gigas; habitatmodification; extended effects; spatial species distribution; benthiccommunity; shorebirds

Authors  Top 
  • van der Zee, E.M., more
  • van der Heide, T.
  • Donadi, S.
  • Eklöf, J.S.
  • Eriksson, B.K.
  • Olff, H.
  • van der Veer, H.W., more
  • Piersma, T., more

Abstract
    Ecosystem engineers can strongly modify habitat structure and resource availability across space. In theory, this should alter the spatial distributions of trophically interacting species. In this article, we empirically investigated the importance of spatially extended habitat modification by reef-building bivalves in explaining the distribution of four avian predators and their benthic prey in the Wadden Sea-one of the world's largest intertidal soft-sediment ecosystems. We applied Structural Equation Modeling to identify important direct and indirect interactions between the different components of the system. We found strong spatial gradients in sediment properties into the surrounding area of mixed blue mussel (Mytilus edulis) and Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) reefs, indicating large-scale (100s of m) engineering effects. The benthic community was significantly affected by these gradients, with the abundance of several important invertebrate prey species increasing with sediment organic matter and decreasing with distance to the reefs. Distance from the reef, sediment properties, and benthic food abundance simultaneously explained significant parts of the distribution of oystercatchers (Haematopus ostralegus), Eurasian curlews (Numenius arquata), and bar-tailed godwits (Limosa lapponica). The distribution of black-headed gulls (Chroicoceph ridibundus)-a versatile species with many diet options-appeared unaffected by the reefs. These results suggest that intertidal reef builders can affect consumer-resource dynamics far beyond their own boundaries, emphasizing their importance in intertidal soft-bottom ecosystems like the Wadden Sea.

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