MEPS 503:289-303 (2014)  -  DOI:

Potential for landscape-scale positive interactions among tropical marine ecosystems

L. G. Gillis1,*, T. J. Bouma1, C. G. Jones2, M. M. van Katwijk3, I. Nagelkerken4, C. J. L. Jeuken5, P. M. J. Herman1, A. D. Ziegler6

1Department of Spatial Ecology, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), The Netherlands
2Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, PO Box AB, Millbrook, New York, USA
3Department of Environmental Science, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
4School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Australia
5Deltares/Delft Hydraulics, Marine and Coastal Systems/Hydraulic Engineering, Delft, The Netherlands
6Geography Department, National University of Singapore, Singapore
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Fluxes of energy, materials and organisms among ecosystems are consequences of their openness to exchange and lead to the consideration of reciprocal connections among adjacent ecosystems. Reciprocal connectivity may have implications for ecosystem functioning and management but it is generally studied only for a single factor, rather than for multiple factors. We examined the extent to which these fluxes may apply at the landscape scale for 3 ecosystems: mangrove forests, seagrass beds and coral reefs. From a literature review and analysis, we semi-quantitatively assessed fluxes based on attenuation of wave height and exchanges of sediments, nutrients and algivores. We found that coral reefs and seagrass beds significantly attenuated wave height and that this effect depended on specific physical conditions. In the case of coral reefs, the attenuation capacity depended on the section of the reef the wave breached, whilst for seagrass beds, we hypothesised that the density of the plants was the controlling factor. Mangrove forests’ ability to reduce sediment fluxes was related to the mangrove forest area. Seagrass plants have a capacity to decrease sediments in the water column. Both mangrove forests and seagrass beds retained nutrients within the ecosystems, which was a positive interaction. Isolated reefs showed a decrease (30 to 95%) in algivore biomass compared to situations where the 3 habitats were in proximity to each other. The findings show that there is potential for reciprocal connections among coastal ecosystems. Our results indicate that these exchanges at the ecosystem scale can be placed into the context of facilitation in the field of community ecology. Future research should focus on which natural and anthropogenic factors determine reciprocal facilitation between these ecosystems and determine how ecosystem-based management can be improved with this knowledge. The considerable potential for reciprocal facilitation implies that ecosystem managers may need to place greater emphasis on the landscape scale.

KEY WORDS: Mangrove forests · Seagrass beds · Coral reefs · Ecosystem engineering · Nutrients · Hydrodynamics · Sediments · Algivores

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Cite this article as: Gillis LG, Bouma TJ, Jones CG, van Katwijk MM and others (2014) Potential for landscape-scale positive interactions among tropical marine ecosystems. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 503:289-303.

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