MEPS prepress abstract  -  DOI:

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

Barbara Proença*, Marine Romuald, Isabelle Auby, Florian Ganthy, Aldo Sottolichio, Richard Michalet


ABSTRACT: Ecosystem engineering effects are effects of dominant species on habitats and consequently on other species, that are likely to propagate through time at longer distance than the close neighbourhood. They are important to disentangle from short-term biotic effects, especially in biological invasions since they can explain changes in invasion rates over the course of the invasion. We assessed the contribution and spatial dynamics of ecosystem engineering effects of the strong invader Spartina anglica on Zostera noltei, a foundation species of muddy intertidal systems in Europe. Z. noltei transplants were grown at different positions along transects crossing intact, cut S. anglica patches and nearby bare sediment on tidal flats in the Bay of Arcachon (France), in order to disentangle 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 to increased sediment elevation and relative fine sediment content. Up to two meters 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 in a drier and more oxidized terrestrial habitat, no longer suitable for the seagrass. Although these effects may propagate at several meters from a patch, they appeared to be too weak to likely affect the seagrass at the scale of a bay.