terHorst, C.P. and S.R. Dudgeon. 2009

terHorst, C.P. and S.R. Dudgeon. 2009. Beyond the patch: disturbance affects species abundances in the surrounding matrix community. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 370: 120-126.

Abstract:¬†The role of disturbance in community ecology has been studied extensively and is thought to free resources and reset successional sequences at the local scale and create heterogeneity at the regional scale. Most studies have investigated effects on either the disturbed patch or on the entire community, but have generally ignored any effect of or on the community surrounding disturbed patches. We used marine fouling communities to examine the effect of a surrounding community on species abundance within a disturbed patch and the effect of a disturbance on species abundance in the surrounding community. We varied both the magnitude and pattern of disturbance on experimental settlement plates. Settlement plates were dominated by a non-native bryozoan, which may have established because of the large amount of initial space available on plates. Percent covers of species within the patch were affected by the surrounding community, confirming previous studies’ predictions about edge effects from the surrounding community on dynamics within a patch. Disturbance resulted in lower percent cover in the surrounding community, but there were no differences between magnitudes or spatial patterns of disturbance. Disturbance lowered population growth rates in the surrounding community, possibly by altering the abiotic environment or species interactions. Following disturbance, the recovery of species within a patch may be affected by species in the surrounding community, but the effects of a disturbance can extend beyond the patch and alter abundances in the surrounding community. The dependence of patch dynamics on the surrounding community and the extended effects of disturbance on the surrounding community, suggest an important feedback of disturbance on patch dynamics indirectly via the surrounding community.

Keywords: Habitat fragmentation, Invasive species, Matrix habitat, Succession, Watersipora subtorquata


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