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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 440:53-65 (2011)  -  DOI:

Interacting effects of deposit feeding and tidal resuspension on benthic microalgal community structure and spatial patterns

Craig Plante*, Emily Frank, Patricia Roth

Department of Biology, Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina 29412, USA

ABSTRACT: Benthic microalgae (BMA) are important primary producers constituting an essential component of nearshore food webs. BMA also release extracellular polymeric secretions that stabilize sediments. Primary objectives of our research were to assess the separate and interactive effects of biotic and abiotic disturbances on structure and spatial patterns of microalgal communities in shallow-water sediments. Using field comparative studies, we characterized the effects of 2 prominent types of disturbance: macroinvertebrate ingestion and tidal resuspension. BMA biomass and composition in fecal materials from the enteropneust Balanoglossus aurantiacus and sediments were followed through time using fluorometry and molecular techniques (PCR-DGGE analysis of 18S rDNA and sequencing). We also examined the effects of disturbance on spatial patterns of BMA biomass, diversity, and composition over the larger sedimentary landscape using correlative studies. Deposit-feeder ingestion was found to significantly reduce BMA biomass and alter BMA composition, although qualitative changes were comparatively less remarkable. A significant difference was also found between average biomass before and after tidal immersion. Spatial autocorrelation revealed heterogeneity in BMA distribution during low tide, and that this spatial patterning correlated with B. aurantiacus fecal coils. Samples taken after tidal immersion showed no patchiness, nor was there a correlation between BMA biomass and pre-immersion fecal cover. In intertidal sediments, the qualitative and quantitative impacts of deposit feeding, and the resulting landscape-scale patchiness, appear to be short-lived due to ­erasure by frequent tidal resuspension.

KEY WORDS: Disturbance · Spatial autocorrelation · DGGE · Diatom · Intertidal · Beach

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Cite this article as: Plante C, Frank E, Roth P (2011) Interacting effects of deposit feeding and tidal resuspension on benthic microalgal community structure and spatial patterns. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 440:53-65.

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