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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 449:95-108 (2012)  -  DOI:

Habitat alteration and community-level effects of an invasive ecosystem engineer: a case study along the coast of NSW, Australia

Fabiane Gallucci1,2,*, Pat Hutchings2, Paul Gribben3, Gustavo Fonseca1,2 ¹

Centro de Biologia Marinha da Universidade de São Paulo, Rodovia Manoel Hypólito do Rego, km 131.5, São Sebastião 11600-000, Brazil
²Australian Museum, 6 College Street, Sydney, New South Wales 2010, Australia
3Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, School of the Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales 2007, Australia

ABSTRACT: We investigated the effects of the habitat-modifying green algae Caulerpa taxifolia on meiobenthic communities along the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Samples were taken from unvegetated sediments, sediments underneath the native seagrass Zostera capricorni, and sediments invaded by C. taxifolia at 3 sites along the coast. Meiofaunal responses to invasion varied in type and magnitude depending on the site, ranging from a slight increase to a substantial reduction in meiofauna and nematode abundances and diversity. The multivariate structure of meiofauna communities and nematode assemblages, in particular, differed significantly in sediments invaded by C. taxifolia when compared to native habitats, but the magnitude of this dissimilarity differed between the sites. These differential responses of meiofauna to C. taxifolia were explained by different sediment redox potentials. Sediments with low redox potential showed significantly lower fauna abundances, lower numbers of meiofaunal taxa and nematode species and more distinct assemblages. The response of meiofauna to C. taxifolia also depended on spatial scale. Whereas significant loss of benthic biodiversity was observed locally at one of the sites, at the larger scale C. taxifolia promoted an overall increase in nematode species richness by favouring species that were absent from the native environments. Finally, we suggest there might be some time-lags associated with the impacts of C. taxifolia and point to the importance of considering the time since invasion when evaluating the impact of invasive species.

KEY WORDS: Ecosystem engineer · Invasive species · Meiofauna · Nematodes · Caulerpa taxifolia

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Cite this article as: Gallucci F, Hutchings P, Gribben P, Fonseca G (2012) Habitat alteration and community-level effects of an invasive ecosystem engineer: a case study along the coast of NSW, Australia. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 449:95-108.

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