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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 621:69-81 (2019)  -  DOI:

Disentangling ecosystem engineering from short-term biotic effects of a strong invader on a native foundation species

Barbara Proença1,*, Marine Romuald1, Isabelle Auby2, Florian Ganthy2, Aldo Sottolichio1, Richard Michalet1

1University of Bordeaux, U.M.R. 5805 EPOC, 33405 Talence cedex, France
2IFREMER Arcachon, 33120 Arcachon, France
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Ecosystem engineering effects of dominant species on habitats and consequently on other species are likely to propagate through time at longer distance than the close neighbourhood. Such effects are important to disentangle from short-term biotic effects, especially in biological invasions, as engineering can explain changes in invasion rates over the course of the invasion. We assessed the contribution and spatial dynamics of ecosystem engineering effects of a strong invader, the cordgrass Spartina anglica, on Zostera noltei, a foundation seagrass species of muddy intertidal systems in Europe. Z. noltei transplants were grown at different positions along transects crossing intact S. anglica patches, cut patches and nearby bare sediment on tidal flats in the Bay of Arcachon (France), in order to separate ecosystem engineering effects from short-term biotic effects and evaluate their likely spatial propagation. Bed altimetry, sediment redox potential and granulometry were measured in all treatments. Within Spartina patches, we found strong negative ecosystem engineering effects of the cordgrass on the seagrass associated with increased sediment elevation and relative fine sediment content. Up to 2 m outside the patch, we found significant negative ecosystem engineering effects and positive short-term biotic effects, but they were weak and counterbalanced each other. We conclude that S. anglica can transform a marine muddy intertidal habitat into a drier and more oxidized terrestrial habitat, no longer suitable for the seagrass. Although these effects may propagate at several metres from a patch, they appeared to be too weak to likely affect the seagrass at the scale of a whole bay.

KEY WORDS: Biological invasion · Competition · Ecosystem engineer · Spartina anglica ·Zostera noltei

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Cite this article as: Proença B, Romuald M, Auby I, Ganthy F, Sottolichio A, Michalet R (2019) Disentangling ecosystem engineering from short-term biotic effects of a strong invader on a native foundation species. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 621:69-81.

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