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Decreasing seagrass density negatively influences associated fauna / Rosemary M. McCloskey, Richard Unsworth
PeerJ, Volume: 3, Start page: e1053
Swansea University Author: Richard Unsworth
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DOI (Published version): 10.7717/peerj.1053
Seagrass meadows globally are disappearing at a rapid rate with physical disturbances being one of the major drivers of this habitat loss. Disturbance of seagrass can lead to fragmentation, a reduction in shoot density, canopy height and coverage, and potentially permanent loss of habitat. Despite b...
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Seagrass meadows globally are disappearing at a rapid rate with physical disturbances being one of the major drivers of this habitat loss. Disturbance of seagrass can lead to fragmentation, a reduction in shoot density, canopy height and coverage, and potentially permanent loss of habitat. Despite being such a widespread issue, knowledge of how such small scale change affects the spatial distribution and abundances of motile fauna remains limited. The present study investigated fish and macro faunal community response patterns to a range of habitat variables (shoot length, cover and density), including individual species habitat preferences within a disturbed and patchy intertidal seagrass meadow. Multivariate analysis showed a measurable effect of variable seagrass cover on the abundance and distribution of the fauna, with species specific preferences to both high and low seagrass cover seagrass. The faunal community composition varied significantly with increasing/decreasing cover. The faunal species composition of low cover seagrass was more similar to sandy control plots than to higher cover seagrass. Shannon Wiener Diversity (H′) and species richness was significantly higher in high cover seagrass than in low cover seagrass, indicating increasing habitat value as density increases. The results of this study underline how the impacts of small scale disturbances from factors such as anchor damage, boat moorings and intertidal vehicle use on seagrass meadows that reduce shoot density and cover can impact upon associated fauna. These impacts have negative consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services such as the provision of nursery habitat.
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