Interactions between multiple large macrofauna species and nematode communities — Mechanisms for indirect impacts of trawling disturbance

Ingels, J, Dashfield, SL, Somerfield, PJ, Widdicombe, S and Austen, MC 2014 Interactions between multiple large macrofauna species and nematode communities — Mechanisms for indirect impacts of trawling disturbance. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 456. 41-49.

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Highlights •We exposed meiofauna to 7 different large macrofauna species at high and low densities. •Macrofauna presence altered nematode community structure and reduced their abundance. •Macrofauna species had similar effects by reducing the few dominant nematode species. •Meio–macrofauna resource competition and spatial segregation are the main drivers. •Trawling effects on macrofauna affect nematode communities indirectly. Diverse assemblages of infauna in sediments provide important physical and biogeochemical services, but are under increasing pressure by anthropogenic activities, such as benthic trawling. It is known that trawling disturbance has a substantial effect on the larger benthic fauna, with reductions in density and diversity, and changes in community structure, benthic biomass, production, and bioturbation and biogeochemical processes. Largely unknown, however, are the mechanisms by which the trawling impacts on the large benthic macro- and megafauna may influence the smaller meiofauna. To investigate this, a mesocosm experiment was conducted whereby benthic nematode communities from a non-trawled area were exposed to three different densities (absent, low, normal) of 7 large (> 10 mm) naturally co-occurring, bioturbating species which are potentially vulnerable to trawling disturbance. The results showed that total abundances of nematodes were lower if these large macrofauna species were present, but no clear nematode abundance effects could be assigned to the macrofauna density differences. Nematode community structure changed in response to macrofauna presence and density, mainly as a result of the reduced abundance of a few dominant nematode species. Any detectable effects seemed similar for nearly all macrofauna species treatments, supporting the idea that there may be a general indirect, macrofauna-mediated trawling impact on nematode communities. Explanations for these results may be, firstly, competition for food resources, resulting in spatial segregation of the meio- and macrobenthic components. Secondly, different densities of large macrofauna organisms may affect the nematode community structure through different intensities of bioturbatory disturbance or resource competition. These results suggest that removal or reduced densities of larger macrofauna species as a result of trawling disturbance may lead to increased nematode abundance and hints at the validity of interference competition between large macrofauna organisms and the smaller meiofauna, and the energy equivalence hypothesis, where a trade-off is observed between groups of organisms that are dependent on a common source of energy.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: Benthic Bioturbation Competition Disturbance Diversity Energy equivalence
Subjects: Biology
Ecology and Environment
Marine Sciences
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Marine Life Support Systems (expired)
Depositing User: Jeroen Ingels
Date made live: 02 Jun 2014 14:42
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2020 10:22

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