Effects of trampling by humans on animals inhabiting coralline algal turf in the rocky intertidal

  • Brown P
  • Taylor R
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This paper investigates the effects of trampling by humans on the fauna associated with articulated coralline algal turf. Patches of intertidal turf in a low-use area of the Cape Rodney to Okakari Point Marine Reserve (in north-eastern New Zealand) were experimentally trampled over 5 days at three levels that fell within those measured in a part of the reserve subject to heavy visitor use. Two days after trampling ended there were ~2 · 105individual macrofauna (> 500 μm) per m2in control plots, but densities declined with increasing trampling intensity in the treatment plots, and were reduced to 50% of control values at the highest trampling intensity. Densities of five of the eight commonest taxa were negatively correlated with trampling intensity, with polychaetes being particularly susceptible to low levels of trampling. Three months after trampling ended densities of all taxa had returned to control values, with the exception of polychaetes. Reductions in animal densities are tentatively attributed to the loss of turf and associated sand caused by trampling, rather than direct destruction of the organisms. Given the likely importance of these abundant and productive animals in the rocky reef ecosystem, and their vulnerability to low levels of trampling by humans, we conclude that the effective management of marine protected areas may necessitate total exclusion of humans in some cases.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Algae
  • Coralline turf
  • Epifauna
  • Human impact
  • Intertidal
  • Marine reserve
  • New Zealand
  • Trampling

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  • Pam J. Brown

  • Richard B. Taylor

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