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Aquatic Biology

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AB 3:1-10 (2008)  -  DOI:

Exploitation of rocky intertidal grazers: population status and potential impacts on community structure and functioning

Gustavo M. Martins1, 2, 3,*, Stuart R. Jenkins3, 4, Stephen J. Hawkins 3, 5, Ana I. Neto2, Richard C. Thompson1

1Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
2Secção Biologia Marinha and CIRN, Departamento Biologia, Universidade dos Açores, 9501-801 Ponta Delgada, Açores, Portugal
3Marine Biological Association, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, UK
4School of Ocean Sciences, University of Wales Bangor, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5EY, UK
5College of Natural Sciences, University of Bangor, Bangor, Gwynedd LL57 2UW, UK

ABSTRACT: A wide range of anthropogenic activities are impacting the ecology of coastal areas. Exploitation of marine resources is one such activity, which, through cascading trophic effects, can have influences well beyond that of the target species. We investigated the mid-rocky-shore community structure of the Azores archipelago, a seldom-studied habitat, where there is a local tradition of exploiting limpets, the main intertidal grazers. The limpet population structure differed among islands, and there was an inverse relationship between the abundance of larger limpets and the human population per coastal perimeter, but not the associated catch data. At small scales of resolution (quadrats), there was a negative relationship between the cover of algae and limpets and a positive relationship between barnacles and limpets. These relationships were also apparent at the larger scale of islands as a function of the gradient of exploitation. Our results show how natural habitat fragmentation may be useful where the experimental testing of a hypothesis is not possible, and provide evidence for the trophic cascading effects of limpet exploitation at landscape scales.

KEY WORDS: Harvesting · Exploitation index · Patella candei · Patella aspera · Population structure · Community structure · Fragmented habitats · Islands

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Cite this article as: Martins GM, Jenkins SR, Hawkins SJ, Neto AI, Thompson RC (2008) Exploitation of rocky intertidal grazers: population status and potential impacts on community structure and functioning. Aquat Biol 3:1-10.

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