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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 700:53-64 (2022)  -  DOI:

The importance of shell debris for within-patch heterogeneity and disturbance-recovery dynamics of intertidal macrofauna

Marco Colossi Brustolin1,*, Rebecca V. Gladstone-Gallagher2,3, Judi Hewitt3,4,5, Andrew M. Lohrer5, Simon F. Thrush2

1Institute of Marine Research (IMR), Nye Flødevigveien 20, His 4817, Arendal, Norway
2Institute of Marine Science, The University of Auckland, 23 Symonds Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
3Tvärminne Zoological Station, University of Helsinki, J. A. Palménin tie 260, Hanko 10900, Finland
4Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland, 38 Princes Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand
5National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research NIWA, Gate 10 Silverdale Road Hillcrest, Hamilton 3216, New Zealand
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Shell debris increases habitat diversity and ecological heterogeneity, stabilizing sediments and providing substrate for encrusting and epifaunal animals and protection against predation. However, how shell debris influences disturbance-recovery dynamics in different habitats has not been evaluated. We experimentally tested the effects of shell debris on early colonization of macroinvertebrates into defaunated patches across 12 sites along a mud-to-sand gradient. The addition of shell debris enhanced species richness compared to plots without shells and increased variability in the local contributions to beta-diversity, mostly at the muddier sites. The variation in the strength of these effects along the mud gradient highlights the effects of shell debris on community structure and how the muddying of coastal sediments shifts species composition. Loss of shellfish and burying of shells with elevated rates of sedimentation diminishes the role of small-scale sediment heterogeneity for sustaining beta-diversity in low-energy environments.

KEY WORDS: Macrofauna · Species richness · Recolonization · Beta-diversity · Estuaries · Seafloor

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Cite this article as: Colossi Brustolin M, Gladstone-Gallagher RV, Hewitt J, Lohrer AM, Thrush SF (2022) The importance of shell debris for within-patch heterogeneity and disturbance-recovery dynamics of intertidal macrofauna. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 700:53-64.

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