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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 686:15-35 (2022)  -  DOI:

Epibiont community composition of red mangroves Rhizophora mangle are contingent on root characteristics

Heather A. Stewart1,2,3,*, Dean S. Janiak4, Jennifer L. Wright5, David A. G. A. Hunt1, Andrea Carmona Cortes6, Krystyna T. Powell7,8, Lauren J. Chapman1, Andrew H. Altieri2,9

1Department of Biology, McGill University, Montréal, Québec, H3A 1B1, Canada
2Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panamá, Republic of Panamá
3Center for Marine & Environmental Studies, University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, 00802, US Virgin Islands
4Smithsonian Marine Station, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949, USA
5Department of Marine Biology and Ecology, Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33149, USA
6USDA ARS Invasive Plant Research Laboratory, Davie, Florida 33314, USA
7Department of Biological Sciences, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida 33431 USA
8US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, Mississippi 39180, USA
9Department of Environmental Engineering Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Foundation species traits that structure communities are rarely experimentally examined; thus, a predictive understanding of their functions lags behind patterns of observed species associations. Red mangrove Rhizophora mangle roots form complex living habitats that support diverse epibiont communities, making them a model system for testing links between variation in foundation species traits and associated biodiversity. Here, we compared epibiont community composition between living and non-living mangrove roots, as well as root mimics, to test how foundation species traits affect community structure. We also quantified the community structure of associated mobile invertebrates to examine their relationship with secondary foundation species (e.g. sponges, bivalves) that grow on the roots. After 14 mo of colonization and succession, substrate composition (i.e. mangrove, wood, PVC) had significant effects on community composition, richness, and abundance of sessile epibionts and mobile invertebrates. Non-living mangrove roots were 5 times more likely to deteriorate, and consequently had the lowest epibiont richness and abundance. We found strong positive relationships between mobile invertebrate richness and the abundance, measured as biomass, and richness of sponges and bivalves, suggesting that variation among roots in secondary foundation species play an important role in mediating mobile invertebrate community composition. This study highlights the functional role of habitat structure and how rapidly that function can be lost without biogenic maintenance. Our results indicate the importance of facilitation cascades in fostering diverse mobile invertebrate communities and highlight both advantages and limitations in using artificial structures in restoration programs.

KEY WORDS: Facilitation cascades · Foundation species · Mangrove · Fouling community · Epifauna · Artificial structure · Bocas del Toro

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Cite this article as: Stewart HA, Janiak DS, Wright JL, Hunt DAGA and others (2022) Epibiont community composition of red mangroves Rhizophora mangle are contingent on root characteristics. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 686:15-35.

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