Effects of widespread human disturbances in the marine environment suggest a new agenda for meiofauna research is needed

Schratzberger, M and Somerfield, PJ 2020 Effects of widespread human disturbances in the marine environment suggest a new agenda for meiofauna research is needed. Science of The Total Environment, 728. 138435. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138435

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138435


The response of an ecological community to a disturbance event, and its capacity to recover, are of major interest to ecologists, especially at a time of increasing frequencies and intensities of environmental change brought about by humans. Meiofauna, a group of small-sized organisms, are an abundant and ubiquitous component of seafloor communities that respond rapidly to environmental change. We summarise the available research on the response of metazoan meiofauna to the most widespread anthropogenic disturbances in the marine environment, including bottom fishing, the introduction of invasive species and anthropogenic climate change. We show that disturbance effects on habitats interact critically with effects on resident meiofauna species. Their responses are consistent with competitive replacement, where disparate disturbance effects on competing species drive shifts in dominance and intra- and interspecific interactions. The widespread replacement of habitat-specific ecological specialists by broadly-adapted ecological generalists and opportunists results in biotic and functional homogenisation of once disparate biotas. Anthropogenic disturbances may facilitate novel interactions among meiofauna species, and between meiofauna and other benthic organisms, but the number and breadth of these interactions is likely to be limited. Knowledge about the dependence of meiofauna species on their environment and on other benthic species has been growing. Future studies will be most meaningful if this knowledge is expanded alongside understanding the potential of locally adapted species to respond to shifts in environmental conditions.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Additional Keywords: MeiofaunaAnthropogenic disturbanceBottom fishingInvasive speciesClimate changeEcosystem consequences
Divisions: Plymouth Marine Laboratory > Science Areas > Marine Ecology and Biodiversity
Depositing User: S Hawkins
Date made live: 02 Jun 2020 10:33
Last Modified: 02 Jun 2020 10:33
URI: https://plymsea.ac.uk/id/eprint/8946

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