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Research Technical Report

Seasonal Sediment Dynamics Shape Temperate Bedrock Reef Communities

Figurski, J.D., J. Freiwald, S.I. Lonhart, and C.D. Storlazzi (June 2016)

Marine Ecology Progress Series 552:19-29

ABSTRACT

Mobilized seafloor sediment can impact benthic reef communities through burial, scour, and turbidity. These processes are ubiquitous in coastal oceans and, through their influence on the survival, fitness, and interactions of species, can alter the structure and function of benthic communities. In northern Monterey Bay, California, USA, as much as 30% of the seafloor is buried or exposed seasonally, making this an ideal location to test how subtidal temperate rocky reef communities vary in the presence and absence of chronic sediment-based disturbances. Designated dynamic plots were naturally inundated by sediment in summer (50 to 100% cover) and swept clean in winter, whereas designated stable plots remained free of sediment during our study. Multivariate analyses indicated significant differences in the structure of sessile and mobile communities between dynamic and stable reef habitats. For sessile species, community structure in disturbed plots was less variable in space and time than in stable plots due to the maintenance of an early successional state. In contrast, community structure of mobile species varied more in disturbed plots than in stable plots, reflecting how mobile species distribute in response to sediment dynamics. Some species were found only in these disturbed areas, suggesting that the spatial mosaic of disturbance could increase regional diversity. We discuss how the relative ability of species to tolerate disturbance at different life history stages and their ability to colonize habitat translate into community-level differences among habitats, and how this response varies between mobile and sessile communities.

 

 

 

 

 

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