Eelgrass (Zostera marina) food web structure in different environmental settings

Jonas Thormar, Harald Hasler-Sheetal, Susanne Baden, Christoffer Boström, Kevin Clausen, Dorthe Krause-Jensen, Birgit Olesen, Jonas Ribergaard Rasmussen, Carl Johan Svenson, Marianne Holmer

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Abstract

his study compares the structure of eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) meadows and associated food webs in two eelgrass habitats in Denmark, differing in exposure, connection to the open sea, nutrient enrichment and water transparency. Meadow structure strongly reflected the environmental conditions in each habitat. The eutrophicated, protected site had higher biomass of filamentous algae, lower eelgrass biomass and shoot density, longer and nar- rower leaves, and higher above to below ground biomass ratio compared to the less nutri- ent-enriched and more exposed site. The faunal community composition and food web structure also differed markedly between sites with the eutrophicated, enclosed site having higher biomass of consumers and less complex food web. These relationships resulted in a column shaped biomass distribution of the consumers at the eutrophicated site whereas the less nutrient-rich site showed a pyramidal biomass distribution of consumers coupled with a more diverse consumer community. The differences in meadow and food web structure of the two seagrass habitats, suggest how physical setting may shape ecosystem response and resilience to anthropogenic pressure. We encourage larger, replicated studies to further disentangle the effects of different environmental variables on seagrass food web structure.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0146479
JournalP L o S One
Volume11
Issue number1
Number of pages27
ISSN1932-6203
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 12. Jan 2016

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