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Balance between biological and physical components in the impact of Mytilus edulis on associated organisms

Vyacheslav V. Khalaman*, Nina S. Golubovskaya, Alexander Yu. Komendantov, Sergey S. Malavenda, Polina A. Manoylina, Tatiana A. Mikhaylova, Svetlana V. Raznovskaya

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The ecosystems engineer's influence on the associated organisms includes two components: physical and biological. The first is the spatial environment created by the ecosystems engineer and the second is physiological activity of that. However, there are little knows about ration between these components. We evaluated this ratio for Mytilus edulis L. by means of a field experiment, in which the communities of organisms developed on control bare ceramic plates (С) were compared with those formed on the plates carrying patches of live mussels (L) or artificial patches made of mussel dummies (D). The experiment was performed using two different age-size groups of mussels and their relative dummies (small/young and large/old). Live mussels had only a weak positive effect on species richness of the associated organisms, but the structure of the communities that formed on tested plates (L, D and C)) differed significantly. At that, the similarity of communities of associated organisms between the C and L was 1.5-3 times less than between the C and D. The mussel size/age factor had no significant effect on the community structure other than on the algal assemblage. The results of the experiment suggest that the influence of mussels on the associated organisms cannot be reduced only to the effect of increasing complexity of the spatial environment. The influence of the biological component is significant and can exceed that of the physical component. Thus, non-living spatial structures cannot serve as an identical substitute for the populations of living organisms in ecosystem engineering.