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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 523:71-80 (2015)  -  DOI:

Rainfall intensity modulates the interaction between the marsh cordgrass Spartina densiflora and the mouse Akodon azarae

Jesús Pascual*, Alejandro D. Canepuccia, Juan Alberti, Pedro Daleo, Oscar Iribarne

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC), CONICET - UNMDP, Lab. Ecología, Dpto. Biología, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, CC 573 Correo Central, B7600WAG, Mar del Plata, Argentina
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Changes in rainfall patterns caused by anthropogenic global climate change or planetary-scale events, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation, can significantly affect the abundance and distribution of organisms. Despite the evidence of such effects on marine and terrestrial systems, ecological consequences of rainfall fluctuations in coastal marine ecosystems remain poorly understood. Here we evaluate the effects of rainfall intensity on the interaction between the cordgrass Spartina densiflora and Azara’s grass mouse Akodon azarae in a southwestern Atlantic salt marsh (Mar Chiquita coastal lagoon, Argentina). Field surveys showed that the abundance of A. azarae increased during rainy summers (i.e. El Niño 2005 and 2007) and had lowest values during dry summers (i.e. La Niña 2008). Salt content in sediment and plant tissue were negatively related with rainfall. In addition, field experiments showed that increased sediment salinity resulted in increased salt content in plant tissues. Elevated soil salinity also increased the proportion of senescent S. densiflora tissues and reduced plant growth. The consumption of S. densiflora leaves by A. azarae also decreased with increased soil salinity. The proportion of S. densiflora in feces collected during the driest summer was very small. Therefore, changes in the abundance of A. azarae could be mediated by plant-rodent trophic interaction or by plant cover changes. In conclusion, rainfall fluctuations changed the abiotic environment (i.e. salinity), decreasing primary production and indirectly modifying habitat use by the omnivore A. azarae and its trophic interaction with S. densiflora. The present study provides evidence that rainfall can modify ecological processes that affect the structure and dynamics of coastal marine ecosystems.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Rainfall changes · Spartina densiflora · Akodon azarae · Habitat use

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Cite this article as: Pascual J, Canepuccia AD, Alberti J, Daleo P, Iribarne O (2015) Rainfall intensity modulates the interaction between the marsh cordgrass Spartina densiflora and the mouse Akodon azarae. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 523:71-80.

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