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A keystone mutualism underpins resilience of a coastal ecosystem to drought
Angelini, C.; Griffin, J.N.; van de Koppel, J.; Lamers, L.P.M.; Smolders, A.J.P.; Derksen-Hooijberg, M.; van der Heide, T.; Silliman, B.R. (2016). A keystone mutualism underpins resilience of a coastal ecosystem to drought. Nature Comm. 7: 12473.
In: Nature Communications. Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2041-1723; e-ISSN 2041-1723, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Authors  Top 
  • Angelini, C.
  • Griffin, J.N.
  • van de Koppel, J., more
  • Lamers, L.P.M.
  • Smolders, A.J.P.
  • Derksen-Hooijberg, M.
  • van der Heide, T.
  • Silliman, B.R.

    Droughts are increasing in severity and frequency, yet the mechanisms that strengthenecosystem resilience to this stress remain poorly understood. Here, we test whether positiveinteractions in the form of a mutualism between mussels and dominant cordgrass in saltmarshes enhance ecosystem resistance to and recovery from drought. Surveys spanning250 km of southeastern US coastline reveal spatially dispersed mussel mounds increasedcordgrass survival during severe drought by 5- to 25-times. Surveys and mussel additionexperiments indicate this positive effect of mussels on cordgrass was due to moundsenhancing water storage and reducing soil salinity stress. Observations and models thendemonstrate that surviving cordgrass patches associated with mussels function as nuclei forvegetative re-growth and, despite covering only 0.1–12% of die-offs, markedly shorten marshrecovery periods. These results indicate that mutualisms, in supporting stress-resistantpatches, can play a disproportionately large, keystone role in enhancing ecosystem resilienceto climatic extremes.

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