The influence of hydrodynamics and ecosystem engineers on eelgrass seed trapping.
ABSTRACT: Propagule dispersal is an integral part of the life cycle of seagrasses; important for colonising unvegetated areas and increasing their spatial distribution. However, to understand recruitment success, seed dispersal and survival in habitats of different complexity remains to be quantified. We tested the single and synergistic effects of three commonly distributed ecosystem engineers-eelgrass (Zostera marina), oysters (Magellana gigas) and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis)-on trapping of Z. marina seeds in a hydraulic flume under currents. Our results suggest that seed retention increases with habitat complexity and further reveal insights into the underlying mechanisms. In eelgrass canopy, trapping occurred mostly through direct blocking of a seed's pathway, while trapping in bivalve patches was mainly related to altered hydrodynamics in the lee side, i.e. behind each specimen. With increasing flow velocity (24-30 cm s-1 in eelgrass canopy, 18-30 cm s-1 in bivalve patches), modifications of the sediment surface through increased turbulence and erosive processes became more important and resulted in high seed trapping rates. Furthermore, we show that while monospecific patches of seagrass and bivalves had different trapping optima depending on flow velocities, intermixing resulted in consistently high trapping rates throughout the investigated hydrodynamic gradient. Our results highlight the importance of positive interactions among ecosystem engineers for seed retention and patch emergence in eelgrass.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC6719863 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01