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Biodiversity and food web indicators of community recovery in intertidal shellfish reefs
Christianen, M.J.A.; van der Heide, T.; Holthuijsen, S.J.; van der Reijden, K.J.; Borst, A.C.W.; Olff, H. (2017). Biodiversity and food web indicators of community recovery in intertidal shellfish reefs. Biol. Conserv. 213(Part B): 317-324.
In: Biological Conservation. Elsevier: Barking. ISSN 0006-3207; e-ISSN 1873-2917, meer
Peer reviewed article  

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Author keywords
    Trophic interactions; Facilitation; Ecological networks; Foundation species; Habitat modification; Biodiversity

Auteurs  Top 
  • Christianen, M.J.A.
  • van der Heide, T.
  • Holthuijsen, S.J., meer
  • van der Reijden, K.J.
  • Borst, A.C.W.
  • Olff, H.

    In conservation strategies of marine ecosystems, priority is given to habitat-structuring foundation species (e.g.seagrasses, mangroves and reef-building corals, shellfish) with the implicit goal to protect or restore associatedcommunities and their interactions. However, the number and accuracy of community level metrics to measurethe success of these strategies are limited. Using intertidal shellfish reefs as a model, we tested to what extentfoundation species alter community and food web structure, and explored whether basic metrics of food webstructure are useful indicators of ecosystem complexity compared to other often-used indices. We found thatshellfish reefs stronglymodified community and foodweb structure bymodifying habitat conditions (e.g. hydrodynamics,sediment grain size). Stable isotope-based food web reconstruction captured important differencesbetween communities frombaremudflat and shellfish reefs that did not emerge fromclassic abundance or diversitymeasures. On shellfish reefs, link density and the number of top predators were consistently higher, whileboth connectance and the richness of intermediate species was lower. Species richness (+42%), species density(+79%) and total biomass of benthos, fish and birds (+41%) was also higher on shellfish reefs, but this did notaffect the Shannon diversity or Evenness. Hence, our results showed that basic foodweb metrics such as link densityand number of top consumers and intermediate species combinedwith traditional measures of species richnesscan provide a robust tool tomeasure conservation and restoration success. We therefore suggest that thesemetrics are included as Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV), and implemented as ecosystem health indicatorsin legislative frameworks such as the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

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