|Dominance of blue mussels versus consumer-mediated enhancement of benthic diversity|In: Journal of Sea Research. Elsevier/Netherlands Institute for Sea Research: Amsterdam; Den Burg. ISSN 1385-1101, more
Benthic boundary layer; Biological settlement; Community composition; Dominant species; Grazing; Predation; Predator prey interactions; Substrate preferences; Asterias rubens Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]; Carcinus maenas (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Littorina littorea (Linnaeus, 1758) [WoRMS]; Mytilus edulis Linnaeus, 1758 [WoRMS]; ANE, Baltic [Marine Regions]; ANE, Germany, Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel Bight [Marine Regions]; Marine; Brackish water
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In the shallow subtidal of Kiel Fjord (western Baltic Sea), the blue mussel Mytilus edulis is the dominant competitor for space. Vertically suspended settlement substrata in the upper 6 m of the water column almost invariably become dominated by M. edulis within a few summer months. However, not all naturally available hard substrata bear mussel monocultures. In three in situ experiments we investigated the dominance of mussels and the influence of local consumers on establishment and dynamics of a benthic community: (a) the natural course of succession in the absence of benthic consumers was followed on vertically suspended settlement substrata, (b) settling plates were exposed to natural recruitment being either accessible or inaccessible to all benthic consumers, and (c) the three major local consumer species, viz. the shore crab Carcinus maenas, the starfish Asterias rubens and the periwinkle Littorina littorea, were enclosed separately in cages containing a settling panel to assess species-specific consumer effects on recruitment. The results illustrate that in this region of the Baltic Sea mussels do have the potential to dominate ungrazed substrata within a few weeks and that top-down effects (predation and grazing) may control community structure. While some species - mussels in particular - were suppressed by consumption, others seemed to benefit from the presence of consumers. Thus, barnacles and algae thrived when consumers were present. Blue mussels being the locally dominant competitor, the beneficial effects of consumers on barnacles and algae were presumably indirect ones through consumer-caused release from asymmetrical competition. The isolated effects of C. maenas, A. rubens and L. littorea, on recruitment differed in quality (positive vs. negative), quantity (strength of effect) and specificity. Barnacle recruitment was significantly reduced in the presence of both starfish and shore crabs. Diatom recruitment was significantly reduced by snails and shore crabs. Scyphozoan recruitment was significantly reduced by crabs only, but was significantly increased by snails. The influence of the shore crabs was most remarkable: recruitment by any potential coloniser species was impeded to a point where in the presence of single individuals of C. maenas the plates stayed perfectly clean macroscopically.