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Polychaete tubes create ephemeral community patterns: Lanice conchilega (Pallas, 1766) associations studied over six years / Ruth Zühlke; Ruth Callaway
Journal of Sea Research, Volume: 46, Issue: 3-4, Pages: 261 - 272
Swansea University Author: Ruth, Callaway
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On intertidal sandflats spatial patterns of benthic communities are influenced by biogenic habitat structures such as mussel beds or seagrass meadows. These structures represent ecological islands hosting a different and often more diverse and abundant community than surrounding sandflats. However,...
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On intertidal sandflats spatial patterns of benthic communities are influenced by biogenic habitat structures such as mussel beds or seagrass meadows. These structures represent ecological islands hosting a different and often more diverse and abundant community than surrounding sandflats. However, few studies have been carried out on tube aggregations of the polychaeteLanice conchilega, although its tube tops are conspicuous habitat features on European intertidal coasts with densities reaching several thousand per m2.The aim of this study was to determine differences between benthic communities associated with tube aggregations and tube-free areas, and to investigate the longevity of communitypatterns around L. conchilegatubes. From 1995 to 2000, the L. conchilega population of an intertidal sandflat off the Eastern Friesian coast was sampled annually. Multivariate analysis showed significant differences between the L. conchilega and reference communities. Species diversity and abundance were higher among tube aggregations. This pattern developed rapidly after L. conchilega colonisation but was also readily destroyed, mainly due to dynamic changes of the L. conchilega population.Five species of benthic macrofauna were exclusively found among L. conchilegatubes, and four species were more abundant in tube aggregations than in reference areas. Only one species, the polychaeteAphelochaeta marioni, was found in lower numbers in dense L. conchilega aggregations.Hence, it is concluded that L. conchilega is a habitat engineer, which alters the composition of the benthic community and contributes to its patchy distribution pattern. However, this pattern is dynamic and ephemeral. Effects of tube aggregations depend on the population dynamic of L. conchilega itself and the species composition in the surrounding sands.
Macrobenthos, Community pattern, Habitat structure, Tube worms, Lanice conchilega, Intertidal sandflats
College of Science