Areas of decreased infaunal abundances in soft substrates adjacent to offshore hardbottom reefs may be evidence of trophic linkages between the two communities. While predation may influence infaunal abundance patterns, other processes such as bioturbation may also be important by reducing infaunal abundances directly, or through an interaction with predation. In this study, the potential influence of bioturbation on an infaunal community is assessed in the sand habitat adjacent to an offshore hardbottom reef in southern Onslow Bay off the coast of North Carolina. Transect sampling at five distances away from the reef indicated that holothurian, Holothuria princeps, density is inversely correlated with infaunal densities. Laboratory experiments and field measurements of bioturbation rates suggest that H. princeps is the dominant bioturbator in the system, capable of completely turning over sediment immediately adjacent to the reef in as little as 6 d. Caging studies indicate that bioturbation does not differentially affect infaunal guilds based on mobility mode, but has an overall negative effect on gastropod and amphipod abundance, and infaunal rank abundances. This study suggests that bioturbation is of sufficient magnitude to influence infaunal abundances close to the reef, and may work concurrently with predation to produce observed infaunal abundance patterns.
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