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Open AccessReview

Role of Reef-Building, Ecosystem Engineering Polychaetes in Shallow Water Ecosystems

Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMyC)-CONICET, Mar del Plata 7600, Argentina
Laboratorio de Ecología, Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, FCEyN, Laboratorio de Ecología 7600, Argentina
Diversity 2019, 11(9), 168;
Received: 15 June 2019 / Revised: 12 September 2019 / Accepted: 15 September 2019 / Published: 17 September 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
Although the effect of ecosystem engineers in structuring communities is common in several systems, it is seldom as evident as in shallow marine soft-bottoms. These systems lack abiotic three-dimensional structures but host biogenic structures that play critical roles in controlling abiotic conditions and resources. Here I review how reef-building polychaetes (RBP) engineer their environment and affect habitat quality, thus regulating community structure, ecosystem functioning, and the provision of ecosystem services in shallow waters. The analysis focuses on different engineering mechanisms, such as hard substrate production, effects on hydrodynamics, and sediment transport, and impacts mediated by filter feeding and biodeposition. Finally, I deal with landscape-level topographic alteration by RBP. In conclusion, RBP have positive impacts on diversity and abundance of many species mediated by the structure of the reef. Additionally, by feeding on phytoplankton and decreasing water turbidity, RBP can control primary production, increase light penetration, and might alleviate the effects of eutrophication affecting supporting ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling. They can also modulate cultural ecosystem services by affecting recreational activities (e.g., negative impacts on boating and angling, increased value of sites as birdwatching sites). Acknowledging the multiplicity of synergistic and antagonistic effects of RBP on ecosystems and linking changes in habitat structure, filter-feeding activities, and biodeposition to ecosystem services are essential for effective decision-making regarding their management and restoration. View Full-Text
Keywords: polychaetes; ecosystem engineers; reef-building; filter-feeding; ecosystem services polychaetes; ecosystem engineers; reef-building; filter-feeding; ecosystem services
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Bruschetti, M. Role of Reef-Building, Ecosystem Engineering Polychaetes in Shallow Water Ecosystems. Diversity 2019, 11, 168.

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