The body-size structure of macrobenthos changes predictably along gradients of hydrodynamic stress and organic enrichment
Donadi S, Eriksson BK, Lettmann KA, Hodapp D, Wolff J, Hillebrand H
Body size is related to an extensive number of species traits and ecological processes and has therefore been suggested as an effective metric to assess community changes and ecosystem’s state. However, the applicability of body size as an ecological indicator in benthic environments has been hindered by the poor knowledge of the factors influencing the size spectra of organisms. By applying biological trait analysis (BTA) and generalized linear models to a species dataset collected in the German Wadden Sea (53°41′14′′ N, 7°14′19′′ E) between 1999 and 2012, we show that the size structure of the macrobenthic community changes predictably along environmental gradients. Specifically, body size increases with increasing current-induced shear stress and sediment organic matter content. In addition, the presence of oyster–mussel reefs in one of the sampling stations enhanced the survival of species belonging to the smallest size categories in habitats with high hydrodynamic energy. This was probably due to the local sheltering effects, which together with biodeposition also increased organic matter in the sediment, likely favoring large deposit feeders as well. Our results suggest that body size can be a useful trait for estimating effects of anthropogenic stressors, such as organic enrichment or alteration of hydrodynamic regime and could therefore be effectively included in current monitoring programs of intertidal macrobenthic communities.
2015, Volume: 162, number: 3, pages: 675--685
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