MEPS 299:79-87 (2005)  -  doi:10.3354/meps299079

Historical configuration of habitat influences the effects of disturbance on mobile invertebrates

Paris J. Goodsell1,2,*, Sean D. Connell1

1Southern Seas Ecology Laboratories, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, DP 418, The University of Adelaide,Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
2Present address: Centre for Research on Ecological Impacts of Coastal Cities, Marine Ecology Laboratories A11,University of Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia

ABSTRACT: Mobile animals can be affected by disturbance because of changes to the structure of their habitat. Few studies, however, recognise the potential for the historical configuration of habitat (e.g. density prior to disturbance) to affect the way animals respond to the disturbance. Furthermore, there is a tendency for ecologists to study or manipulate only the most severe disturbances, but such events are less likely to be common. We tested the hypothesis that the density of Ecklonia radiata before disturbance affects the response of assemblages of mobile invertebrates to different severities of disturbance. Differences in the severity of disturbance caused changes in the structure of assemblages, but this response varied depending on the historical configuration of habitat. The magnitude by which assemblage structure differed between undisturbed and disturbed habitats was greater where habitats were historically sparse rather than dense. We emphasise the importance of assessing a range of severities of disturbance and demonstrate the importance of habitat configuration prior to the disturbance, particularly for animals with close association to their habitat.

KEY WORDS: Disturbance · Severity · Diversity · Habitat structure · History · Mobile invertebrates · Macroalgae

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