Ecosystem engineering kelp limits recruitment of mussels and microphytobenthic algae
Ecosystem engineers often exert strong effects on the recruitment of other species through modification of the local abiotic and biotic environment. In 2015, artificial reefs in eastern Tasmania (-42.64693, 148.01481) spanning seven different patch sizes (0.12-7.68 m2) and supporting four densities of transplanted kelp (Ecklonia radiata at 0, 4.1, 8.2 and 16.4 kelp m-2) were used to determine how the patch size and density of this ecosystem engineer influenced the recruitment of microphytobenthic (MPB) algae, and a secondary ecosystem engineer, the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Increasing kelp density and patch size inhibited the establishment of subcanopy MPB algae on settlement slides and reduced the recruitment of mussels in standardised rope fibre habitats (RFHs). The productivity:biomass ratio (P:B) of mussel recruits tended to be lower on small reefs and reefs without kelp, relative to larger reefs with high densities of kelp. Canopy shading and reduced cover of turf algae appeared to negatively impact the recruitment of MPB algae and mussels, whilst reduced sediment accumulation on the reefs due to the kelp was also negatively associated with mussel recruitment. These findings highlight the role of ecosystem engineering by kelp in inhibiting the establishment of other species which may additionally impact community dynamics and primary and secondary productivity. The limited capacity of small kelp patches to inhibit the recruitment of other organisms supports the notion that fragmented patches of ecosystem engineers could be more suspectable to adverse outcomes from species interactions making them less resistant to shifts towards an alternative ecosystem state.
Publication titleMarine Biology
Department/SchoolInstitute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
Place of publication175 Fifth Ave, New York, USA, Ny, 10010
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