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Submerged vegetation complexity modifies benthic infauna communities: the hidden role of the belowground system
González-Ortiz, V.; Gonzalo Egea, L.; Jiménez-Ramos, R.; Moreno-Mar, F; Pérez Lloréns, J.L.; Bouma, T.J.; Bruno, F. (2016). Submerged vegetation complexity modifies benthic infauna communities: the hidden role of the belowground system. Mar. Ecol. (Berl.) 37: 543–552. https://dx.doi.org/10.1111/maec.12292
In: Marine Ecology (Berlin). Blackwell: Berlin. ISSN 0173-9565, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Belowground system; diversity; infauna; marine vegetation; seagrasses

Authors  Top 
  • González-Ortiz, V.
  • Gonzalo Egea, L.
  • Jiménez-Ramos, R.
  • Moreno-Mar, F
  • Pérez Lloréns, J.L.
  • Bouma, T.J., more
  • Bruno, F.

Abstract
    Marine plants provide a variety of functions with high economic and ecologicalvalues in ecosystems. The above- (AG) and below-ground (BG) systems increasethe structural complexity of plants, which also enhance faunal abundance anddiversity. The ecological role of the AG compartment in structuring inter-tidalmacrobenthic communities has been widely studied; however, this is not thecase for the BG compartment. This study addressed the effects of variation invegetation complexity (in both AG and BG systems) on associated macroben-thic infauna with respect to abundance, species richness, composition, weightand body type. To achieve this aim, a ?eld experiment using arti?cial vegetationmimics was carried out using replicated treatments with different AG-BG com-plexity ratios. We found a signi?cant increase in the density and the number oftaxa of macrobenthic infaunal species in plots with vegetation mimics comparedwith unvegetated areas, regardless of either AG or BG complexity. This effectwas found even when AG parts were not present (i.e. when only BG parts wereused). Furthermore, a positive relationship between structural complexity anddiversity was recorded. Variation in one or both plant compartments wasstrongly related to diversity changes in the associated macrobenthic infauna. Inconclusion, our experimental set-up provides the ?rst evidence that the BGcompartment is at least as important as the AG compartment in controllingdiversity in inter-tidal vegetated areas because it was able to strongly affect com-munity structure even when the AG system was totally absent.

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