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Top-down and bottom-up factors in tidepool communities
Methratta, E.T. (2004). Top-down and bottom-up factors in tidepool communities. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 299(1): 77-96.
In: Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. Elsevier: New York. ISSN 0022-0981, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Intertidal environment; Rocky shores; Species diversity; Tidal pools; Marine

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  • Methratta, E.T.

    Recent studies suggest that nutrient variation influences rocky intertidal community structure, however empirical evidence is rare. In the Gulf of Maine, tidepools that occur on seagull feeding roosts are potentially subjected to regular nutrient loading from seagull guano. The results of a survey conducted on Swan's Island, ME show that roost tidepools have very low macroinvertebrate and macroalgal diversity as well as very high phytoplankton biomass compared to non-roost tidepools. An experiment presented here tested basic food chain hypotheses in tidepool communities. These basic food chain models predict that in a tidepool with one trophic level (phytoplankton only), phytoplankton biomass will increase when nutrients are enriched. In contrast, these models predict that in two trophic level tidepools (phytoplankton and mussels) herbivory will prevent an increase in phytoplankton biomass when nutrients are enriched. A short term 2×2 factorially designed field experiment was used to test this basic conceptual model using herbivory by mussels and enrichment with nitrogen as the main effects. The results of this investigation are consistent with the predictions of basic food chain models, and indicate that over the short time interval of a few days, herbivory by mussels is sufficient to maintain low phytoplankton levels following enrichment with nitrogen. Experimental enrichment with phosphorus in this study had no effect on phytoplankton biomass. The results of this study suggest that periodic pulses of nitrogen into tidepools will have little effect on phytoplankton biomass when mussels are present and that longer-term chronic nitrogen influxes may be driving the patterns of community structure in tidepools occurring on roosts.

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