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Ephemeral Bio-engineers or Reef-building Polychaetes: How Stable are Aggregations of the Tube Worm Lanice conchilega (Pallas, 1766)? / R Callaway; N Desroy; S. F Dubois; J Fournier; M Frost; L Godet; V. J Hendrick; M Rabaut; Ruth Callaway
Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume: 50, Issue: 2, Pages: 237 - 250
Swansea University Author: Ruth, Callaway
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Dense aggregations of tube-worms can stabilize sediments and generate oases for benthic communities that aredifferent and often more diverse and abundant than those of the surroundings. If these features are to qualify as biogenicreefs under nature-conservation legislation such as the EC Habitats Di...
|Published in:||Integrative and Comparative Biology|
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Dense aggregations of tube-worms can stabilize sediments and generate oases for benthic communities that aredifferent and often more diverse and abundant than those of the surroundings. If these features are to qualify as biogenicreefs under nature-conservation legislation such as the EC Habitats Directive, a level of stability and longevity is desirableaside from physical and biological attributes. Lanice conchilega (Pallas, 1766) is widely distributed around the Europeancoast and aggregations of this tube-dwelling polychaete are known to have a positive effect on the biodiversity ofassociated species in inter- and sub-tidal areas. This increases the value of L. conchilega-rich habitats for higher trophiclevels such as birds and fish. However, L. conchilega is currently not recognized as a reef builder primarily due touncertainty about the stability of their aggregations. We carried out three studies on different spatial and temporalscales to explore a number of properties relating to stability: (1) Individual aggregations of L. conchilega of 1m2were monitored for up to 1 year, (2) records of L. conchilega from a 258-ha area over a 35-year period were analyzed,(3) the recovery of a population of L. conchilega subjected to disturbances by cultivation of Manila clams (Ruditapesphilippinarum) was followed over 3 years. The studies provided evidence about the longevity of L. conchilega aggregations,their resistance to disturbance, their resilience in recovering from negative impact and their large-scale persistence. Theresults showed that populations of L. conchilega were prone to considerable fluctuation and the stability of aggregationsdepended on environmental factors and on recruitment. The tube-worms proved to be susceptible to disturbance bycultivation of Manila clams but demonstrated the potential to recover from that impact. The long-term monitoring of alarge L. conchilega population in the Bay of Mont Saint Michel (France) indicated that aggregations can persist over manydecades with a constant, densely populated core area and an expanding and contracting more thinly populated fringezone. The stability of aggregations of L. conchilega and the structures they form do not unequivocally fit the currentlyaccepted definition of a reef. However, given L. conchilega’s accepted reef-like potential to influence diversity andabundance in benthic communities, we suggest clarifying and expanding the definition of reefs so that species withrecords of significant persistence in particular areas and which otherwise meet expectations of reefs are included withinthe definition.
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