Modified habitats influence kelp epibiota via direct and indirect effects

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Abstract

Addition of man-made structures alters abiotic and biotic characteristics of natural habitats, which can influence abundances of biota directly and/or indirectly, by altering the ecology of competitors or predators. Marine epibiota in modified habitats were used to test hypotheses to distinguish between direct and indirect processes. In Sydney Harbour, kelps on pier-pilings supported greater covers of bryozoans, particularly of the non-indigenous species Membranipora membranacea, than found on natural reefs. Pilings influenced these patterns and processes directly due to the provision of shade and indirectly by altering abundances of sea-urchins which, in turn, affected covers of bryozoans. Indirect effects were more important than direct effects. This indicates that artificial structures affect organisms living on secondary substrata in complex ways, altering the biodiversity and indirectly affecting abundances of epibiota. Understanding how these components of habitats affect ecological processes is necessary to allow sensible prediction of the effects of modifying habitats on the ecology of organisms.

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Marzinelli, E. M., Underwood, A. J., & Coleman, R. A. (2011). Modified habitats influence kelp epibiota via direct and indirect effects. PLoS ONE, 6(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0021936

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