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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 534:49-64 (2015)  -  DOI:

Resistance of benthic intertidal communities to multiple disturbances and stresses

Laetitia Joseph, Mathieu Cusson*

Département des sciences fondamentales, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, 555 boulevard de l’Université, Chicoutimi, Québec G7H 2B1, Canada
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Many ecosystems are facing biodiversity loss and environmental change due to anthropogenic activities, with these impacts occurring within the context of natural disturbance. Understanding ecosystem functioning and the response of communities to these impacts is necessary in order to evaluate the effects of future environmental change. The aim of this study was to determine the consequences of the loss of key species on the structure and function of intertidal communities in a context of nutrient enrichment, so as to ascertain the resistance of these communities when disturbance and stresses are compounded. Subarctic rocky intertidal communities in Quebec were subjected to an orthogonal factorial field experiment with 3 stress factors (macroalgae canopy loss, grazer exclusion, and nutrient enrichment), each with 2 disturbance levels. Simple and interactive effects of these factors were followed for 4 mo, and responses in structure (% cover and biomass) and productivity were evaluated. The communities that were not subjected to canopy loss showed greater resistance and very limited effects from enrichment and grazer reduction. The loss of canopy altered the community structure (e.g. reduction in richness and biomass) and functioning (reduced productivity), probably due to increased temperatures and desiccation. This lack of resistance was amplified through the addition of a stress. The application of multiple stresses within field experiments allows for a better understanding of the mechanisms affecting community structure and ecosystem functioning under situations of increased natural and anthropogenic stress.

KEY WORDS: Community structure · Functional response · Multiple stressors · Resistance · Canopy disturbance · Grazers · Nutrient addition · Rocky intertidal

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Cite this article as: Joseph L, Cusson M (2015) Resistance of benthic intertidal communities to multiple disturbances and stresses. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 534:49-64.

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