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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 424:119-132 (2011)  -  DOI:

Habitat–diversity relationships in rocky shore algal turf infaunal communities

Simon F. Thrush1,2,*, Mariachiara Chiantore1, Valentina Asnaghi1, Judi Hewitt2, Dario Fiorentino3, Riccardo Cattaneo-Vietti1

1DipTeRis, Università di Genova, Corso Europa 26, 16132 Genoa, Italy
2National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, PO Box 11-115 Hillcrest, Hamilton, New Zealand
3Laboratory of Zoology and Marine Biology, DiSTeBA, University of Salento, Strada provinciale Lecce-Monteroni,
73100 Lecce, Italy

ABSTRACT: Relationships between habitat complexity and biodiversity are a cornerstone of ecology. On many rocky shores, the cryptic macrofauna that live in the biogenic habitat created by larger organisms adds considerably to biodiversity. Algal turfs are commonly considered to facilitate high species richness of resident organisms by moderating the physically stressful characteristics of the rocky shore. We conducted a multi-scale study to describe scales of patchiness within sites and define the strength of local habitat and broader environmental variables on infaunal turf communities. Species richness contributed by sampling turf dwelling infauna increased our estimates of rocky shore diversity by >100% compared to traditional visual quadrat sampling. Generalised linear models of the species density and abundance of infaunal turf organisms and canonical correspondence analysis of community structure did not indicate a strong role for algal turf habitat complexity. Multivariate partitioning was used to assess the importance of processes operating on site and regional scales in influencing the infaunal turf community. The analysis demonstrated the importance of cross-scale relationships and high levels of unexplained variation. Analysis of biological traits demonstrated widely dispersing species were strongly influenced by broad-scale environmental factors. Feeding traits indicated that the infaunal turf community was dominated by species capable of switching strategies between autotrophic and detrital based foodwebs, with the exception of suspension feeding species. Overall, and contrary to previous studies, our results indicate wide niches for infaunal turf species and weak relationships between the infaunal community and turf habitat characteristics. Spatial variation in turf habitat characteristics was not the main driver of spatial variation in turf-dwelling organisms, implying that the habitat variability we observed was not strongly influencing physical stresses, such as temperature and wave disturbance.

KEY WORDS: Algal turf · Infauna · Diversity–habitat relationships · Biological traits · Spatial scale · Mediterranean Sea

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Cite this article as: Thrush SF, Chiantore M, Asnagi V, Hewitt J, Fiorentino D, Cattaneo-Vietti R (2011) Habitat–diversity relationships in rocky shore algal turf infaunal communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 424:119-132.

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