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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 205:123-138 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps205123

Zoobenthic community establishment and habitat complexity‹the importance of seagrass shoot-density, morphology and physical disturbance for faunal recruitment

Christoffer Boström*, Erik Bonsdorff

Åbo Akademi University, Department of Biology, Environmental and Marine Biology, Akademigatan 1, 20500 Åbo, Finland

ABSTRACT: Seagrass meadows are among the most diverse coastal ecosystems in the Baltic Sea. There is, however, an apparent lack of quantitative data on functional aspects of these systems, such as plant-animal interactions. We tested the importance of seagrass density and morphology for benthic infaunal recruitment in a 2 mo (June/July 1997) field-experiment with both bare and vegetated (3 densities of artificial Ruppia maritima and Zostera marina) colonization trays with azoic sediment. These artificial seagrass patches were placed at 3 m depth in an unvegetated area of a sandy bottom seagrass site on the Åland Islands, northern Baltic Sea. Faunal succession was followed by SCUBA-diving and core sampling with 10 to 20 d intervals. The data showed strong effects of seagrass complexity and wind disturbance on (1) physical processes such as accumulation of drifting algae, particle trapping and sediment binding, (2) development of community parameters (abundance, species richness, diversity) and (3) species-specific colonization patterns. Our data further demonstrated the importance of post-settlement events for distribution of juvenile macrofauna (e.g. resuspension or transport by means of drifting algae), and showed negative and positive effects of wind-mediated disturbance in low- and high-complexity habitats, respectively. It is concluded that wind disturbance may act as a mechanism creating and maintaining high animal diversity in seagrass meadows.

KEY WORDS: Zostera marina · Ruppia maritima · Artificial seagrass · Invertebrate assemblage · Physical disturbance · Field experiment · Drifting algae · Baltic Sea

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