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Aquatic Biology

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AB 12:261-270 (2011)  -  DOI:

Quality or quantity: small-scale patch structure affects patterns of biodiversity in a sublittoral blue mussel community

Maria Koivisto1,2,*, Mats Westerbom1,3, Anna Arnkil1,2

1Tvärminne Zoological Station, Helsinki University, J.A. Palménsväg 260, 10900 Hangö, Finland
2Department of Environmental Sciences, Aquatic Sciences, Helsinki University, PB 56, 00014 Helsinki University, Finland
3Metsähallitus, Natural Heritage Services, PO Box 94, 01301 Vantaa, Finland

ABSTRACT: It is widely accepted that blue mussel Mytilus edulis L. beds support a high macrofaunal diversity. Nonetheless, sublittoral mussel beds on rocky shores have rarely been examined in a patch context to determine the processes creating and maintaining the diversity and assemblages of organisms occupying them. Whereas the species–area relationship is a well-established theory in ecology, less is known about its effect on faunal compositions in aquatic habitats. Also, the effect of patch shape and relative patch edge are poorly studied within a rocky shore mussel framework. The present study examined the effects of blue mussel patch size, patch shape, and the presence of algae and sand in mussel patches on the composition and diversity of associated macrofaunal communities in sublittoral habitats. In line with the species–area relationship, we found that the total number of taxa increased with patch size up to ca. 500 cm2, thereafter declining. Small patches largely lacked annelid worms and showed a lower diversity of gastropod species. We also found that the diversity was further enhanced by a high biomass of blue mussels, the presence of algae and the weight of interstitial sand. The shape of the patch had no effect on species richness, but affected the species composition. We conclude that structural components of sublittoral blue mussel habitats, such as patch content and shape, greatly affect the diversity and faunal assemblage. This has important implications in conservation biology, since habitats are becoming more fragmented. Our study demonstrates that not only habitat quantity, but also quality has a large impact on species communities in marine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Species–area relationship · Patch shape · Edge effect · Ecosystem engineer · Rocky shores · Macrofauna · Baltic Sea

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Cite this article as: Koivisto M, Westerbom M, Arnkil A (2011) Quality or quantity: small-scale patch structure affects patterns of biodiversity in a sublittoral blue mussel community. Aquat Biol 12:261-270.

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