Special Issue "Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans"

A special issue of Diversity (ISSN 1424-2818). This special issue belongs to the section "Marine Diversity".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Jorge L. Gutiérrez

Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Grupo de Investigación y Educación en Temas Ambientales (GrIETA), and Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata, Mar de Plata, Argentina
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Interests: physical ecosystem engineers; biodiversity; ecosystem functioning; invasive species; intertidal organisms; coastal habitat conservation; rocky shores; salt marshes; tidal flats; coastal dunes

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Research on physical ecosystem engineering—i.e., the structural modification of environments by organisms—has flourished during the last two decades. At present, the importance of physical ecosystem engineers for the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning is largely recognized by scientists. However, there is a continuing emergence of studies revealing significant, though previously unappreciated engineers and/or engineering impact mechanisms. This indicates that the diversity of engineering processes and consequences in nature may still be much richer than we currently appreciate.

Because of incipient, localized exploration and ongoing environmental transformation, coasts and oceans across the globe hold major opportunities for ecosystem engineering research and discovery. The goal of this Special Issue is to illustrate the diversity of physical ecosystem engineering processes that occur in the world coasts and oceans—from coastal dunes and forests to the deep sea—with an emphasis on studies that go beyond the documentation of local engineering processes and inform our general understanding of, for example, important engineering traits, interactive engineering effects, engineering impact mechanisms and their context-dependencies.

Dr. Jorge L. Gutiérrez
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 850 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Physical ecosystem engineers
  • Engineered structures
  • Abiotic conditions
  • Biotic consequences
  • Biodiversity
  • Ecosystem functioning
  • Coasts
  • Oceans

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Ecosystem Engineering by Thalassinidean Crustaceans: Response Variability, Contextual Dependencies and Perspectives on Future Research
Diversity 2019, 11(4), 64; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11040064 (registering DOI)
Received: 18 March 2019 / Revised: 15 April 2019 / Accepted: 15 April 2019 / Published: 19 April 2019
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Abstract
Ecological functions in marine sedimentary habitats are greatly influenced by bio-engineering organisms. Thalassinidean crustaceans are particularly important in this regard, given their density, spatial occupancy and burrowing depths. These features coupled with high per capita engineering rates (bioturbation mainly) and the ability to [...] Read more.
Ecological functions in marine sedimentary habitats are greatly influenced by bio-engineering organisms. Thalassinidean crustaceans are particularly important in this regard, given their density, spatial occupancy and burrowing depths. These features coupled with high per capita engineering rates (bioturbation mainly) and the ability to modulate multiple resources simultaneously, place thalassinids amongst the most influential of ecosystem engineers in marine ecosystems. Research on these organisms has focused on mechanisms by which engineering effects are propagated, whilst drawing attention to the impact of ecosystem modification on ecological processes. However, disparities in the outcomes of global research suggest that complex dependencies underpin ecological responses to thalassinideans that we do not yet fully understand. It is in this context that this review draws attention to some of the dependencies in question, specifically by using existing models and hypotheses to (i) demonstrate how these dependencies can alter ecological responses to ecosystem engineering by thalassinids, and (ii) explain variability observed in outcomes of existing research. This review also shows the potential for explicit inclusion of such dependencies in future research to generate new knowledge on thalassinidean ecosystem engineering, from both fundamental and global change perspectives. More broadly, this review is a contribution towards advancing a predictive and mechanistic understanding of thalassinidean ecosystem engineering, in which biotic and abiotic dependencies are integrated. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
Open AccessArticle Communities and Attachment Networks Associated with Primary, Secondary and Alternative Foundation Species; A Case Study of Stressed and Disturbed Stands of Southern Bull Kelp
Diversity 2019, 11(4), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11040056
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 3 April 2019 / Published: 10 April 2019
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Abstract
Southern bull kelps (Durvillaea spp., Fucales) are ‘primary’ foundation species that control community structures and ecosystem functions on temperate wave-exposed rocky reefs. However, these large foundation species are threatened by disturbances and stressors, including invasive species, sedimentation and heatwaves. It is unknown [...] Read more.
Southern bull kelps (Durvillaea spp., Fucales) are ‘primary’ foundation species that control community structures and ecosystem functions on temperate wave-exposed rocky reefs. However, these large foundation species are threatened by disturbances and stressors, including invasive species, sedimentation and heatwaves. It is unknown whether ‘alternative’ foundation species can replace lost southern bull kelps and its associated communities and networks. We compared community structure (by quantifying abundances of different species) and attachment-interaction networks (by quantifying which species were attached to other species) among plots dominated by Durvillaea spp. and plots where Durvillaea spp. were lost either through long-term repeated experimental removals or by recent stress from a marine heatwave. Long-term experimental removal plots were dominated by ‘alternative’ foundation species, the canopy-forming Cystophora spp. (Fucales), whereas the recent heatwave stressed plots were dominated by the invasive kelp Undaria pinnatifida (Laminariales). A network analysis of attachment interactions showed that communities differed among plots dominated by either Durvillaea spp., Cystophora spp. or U. pinnatifida, with different relationships between the primary, or alternative, foundation species and attached epiphytic ‘secondary’ foundation species. For example, native Cystophora spp. were more important as hosts for secondary foundation species compared to Durvillaea spp. and U. pinnatifida. Instead, Durvillaea spp. facilitated encrusting algae, which in turn provided habitat for gastropods. We conclude that (a) repeated disturbances and strong stressors can reveal ecological differences between primary and alternative foundation species, (b) analyses of abundances and attachment-networks are supplementary methods to identify linkages between primary, alternative and secondary foundation species, and (c) interspersed habitats dominated by different types of foundation species increase system-level biodiversity by supporting different species-abundance patterns and species-attachment networks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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Open AccessArticle Vacant Bivalve Boreholes Increase Invertebrate Species Richness in a Physically Harsh, Low Intertidal Platform
Diversity 2019, 11(3), 39; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11030039
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 26 February 2019 / Accepted: 27 February 2019 / Published: 7 March 2019
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Abstract
Ecosystem engineers can modulate harsh abiotic conditions, thus creating habitat for species that cannot withstand the local environment. In this study, we investigated if vacant boreholes created by the rock-boring bivalve Petricola dactylus increase species richness in the low intertidal zone of a [...] Read more.
Ecosystem engineers can modulate harsh abiotic conditions, thus creating habitat for species that cannot withstand the local environment. In this study, we investigated if vacant boreholes created by the rock-boring bivalve Petricola dactylus increase species richness in the low intertidal zone of a Patagonian rocky shore characterized by intense hydrodynamic forcing and sediment scour. Invertebrate species richness was three times higher in engineered than unengineered habitats (i.e., with and without Petricola boreholes, respectively) and the increase in species richness was area-independent. The most prevalent species in unengineered areas showed strong adhesion mechanisms, whereas infaunal and vagile species were mostly restricted to boreholes. The positive influence of engineered microhabitats on species richness can largely be attributed to amelioration of physical conditions, particularly a reduction in hydrodynamic forces and sediment trapping/stabilization within boreholes. We conclude that vacant boreholes are essential microhabitats for the maintenance of biodiversity within the otherwise inhospitable low intertidal zone. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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Open AccessArticle A Facilitation Cascade Enhances Local Biodiversity in Seagrass Beds
Diversity 2019, 11(3), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11030030
Received: 17 December 2018 / Revised: 14 February 2019 / Accepted: 16 February 2019 / Published: 26 February 2019
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1798 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Invertebrate diversity can be a key driver of ecosystem functioning, yet understanding what factors influence local biodiversity remains uncertain. In many marine and terrestrial systems, facilitation cascades where primary foundation and/or autogenic ecosystem engineering species promote the settlement and survival of a secondary [...] Read more.
Invertebrate diversity can be a key driver of ecosystem functioning, yet understanding what factors influence local biodiversity remains uncertain. In many marine and terrestrial systems, facilitation cascades where primary foundation and/or autogenic ecosystem engineering species promote the settlement and survival of a secondary foundation/engineering species have been shown to enhance local biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. We experimentally tested if a facilitation cascade occurs among eelgrass (Zostera marina), pen clams (Atrina rigida), and community diversity in temperate seagrass beds in North Carolina, U.S.A., and if this sequence of direct positive interactions created feedbacks that affected various metrics of seagrass ecosystem function and structure. Using a combination of surveys and transplant experiments, we found that pen clam density and survivorship was significantly greater in seagrass beds, indicating that eelgrass facilitates pen clams. Pen clams in turn enhanced local diversity and increased both the abundance and species richness of organisms (specifically, macroalgae and fouling invertebrate fauna)—the effect of which scaled with increasing clam density. However, we failed to detect an impact of pen clams on other seagrass functions and hypothesize that functioning may more likely be enhanced in scenarios where secondary foundation species specifically increase the diversity of key functional groups such as epiphyte grazers and/or when bivalves are infaunal rather than epifaunal. Our findings add to the growing amount of literature that demonstrates that secondary foundation species are important drivers of local biodiversity in marine ecosystems. Further experimentation is needed that directly examines (i) the role of functional versus overall diversity on seagrass functions and (ii) the relative importance of life-history strategy in determining when and where engineering bivalves increase biodiversity and/or functioning of seagrass beds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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Open AccessArticle Algal Epibionts as Co-Engineers in Mussel Beds: Effects on Abiotic Conditions and Mobile Interstitial Invertebrates
Diversity 2019, 11(2), 17; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11020017
Received: 3 January 2019 / Revised: 22 January 2019 / Accepted: 24 January 2019 / Published: 29 January 2019
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1811 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Mussels and macroalgae have long been recognized as physical ecosystem engineers that modulate abiotic conditions and resources and affect the composition of rocky shore assemblages. Their spatial distributions in the intertidal zone frequently overlap, as many algal species thrive as epibionts on mussel [...] Read more.
Mussels and macroalgae have long been recognized as physical ecosystem engineers that modulate abiotic conditions and resources and affect the composition of rocky shore assemblages. Their spatial distributions in the intertidal zone frequently overlap, as many algal species thrive as epibionts on mussel beds. Nonetheless, their potential for combined engineering effects has not been addressed to date. Here we illustrate that Porphyra sp.—a desiccation-resistant macroalga that develops mostly epiphytically onto mussel beds—affects temperature, desiccation levels, and mobile interstitial invertebrates in mussel beds. Specifically, we observed that Porphyra cover (a) reduced temperature at the surface of the mussel bed but not at their base, (b) reduced desiccation both at the surface and base of the mussel bed and, (c) increased the densities of an abundant interstitial species—the amphipod Hyale grandicornis—in several study sites/dates. Additionally, we found that the positive responses of these grazing amphipods to Porphyra were driven by physical habitat modification (engineering) rather than food availability. This suggests that co-engineering by Porphyra and mussels generates abiotic states and focal species responses that would not be predictable from their individual effects. We expect that increased appreciation of co-engineering aids our understanding of complex ecological dynamics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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Open AccessArticle After the Fall: Legacy Effects of Biogenic Structure on Wind-Generated Ecosystem Processes Following Mussel Bed Collapse
Diversity 2019, 11(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11010011
Received: 11 December 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 11 January 2019 / Published: 15 January 2019
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Abstract
Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) are ecosystem engineers with strong effects on species diversity and abundances. Mussel beds appear to be declining in the Gulf of Maine, apparently due to climate change and predation by the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas. [...] Read more.
Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) are ecosystem engineers with strong effects on species diversity and abundances. Mussel beds appear to be declining in the Gulf of Maine, apparently due to climate change and predation by the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas. As mussels die, they create a legacy of large expanses of shell biogenic structure. In Maine, USA, we used bottom traps to examine effects of four bottom cover types (i.e., live mussels, whole shells, fragmented shells, bare sediment) and wind condition (i.e., days with high, intermediate, and low values) on flow-related ecosystem processes. Significant differences in transport of sediment, meiofauna, and macrofauna were found among cover types and days, with no significant interaction between the two factors. Wind condition had positive effects on transport. Shell hash, especially fragmented shells, had negative effects, possibly because it acted as bed armor to reduce wind-generated erosion and resuspension. Copepods had the greatest mobility and shortest turnover times (0.15 d), followed by nematodes (1.96 d) and the macrofauna dominant, Tubificoides benedeni (2.35 d). Shell legacy effects may play an important role in soft-bottom system responses to wind-generated ecosystem processes, particularly in collapsed mussel beds, with implications for recolonization, connectivity, and the creation and maintenance of spatial pattern. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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Open AccessArticle Individual Morphology and Habitat Structure Alter Social Interactions in a Range-Shifting Species
Diversity 2019, 11(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11010006
Received: 11 October 2018 / Revised: 31 December 2018 / Accepted: 31 December 2018 / Published: 5 January 2019
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Abstract
Ecosystem engineers that serve as foundation species shape the ecology and behavior of the species which depend on them. As species shift their geographic ranges into ecosystems they have not previously inhabited, it is important to understand how interactions with novel foundation species [...] Read more.
Ecosystem engineers that serve as foundation species shape the ecology and behavior of the species which depend on them. As species shift their geographic ranges into ecosystems they have not previously inhabited, it is important to understand how interactions with novel foundation species alter their behavior. By employing behavioral assays and morphological analyses, we examined how individual morphology and foundation species structure impact the ritualistic aggression behavior of the range shifting mangrove tree crab Aratus pisonii between its historic and colonized habitats. Structure of the foundation species of the colonized salt marsh ecosystem increases the incidence and risk of this behavior over the historic mangrove habitat, potentially negating benefits of ritualizing aggression. Further, docks within the salt marsh, which are structurally analogous to mangroves, mitigate some, but not all, of the increased costs of performing ritualized aggression. Crabs in the salt marsh also had relatively larger claws than conspecifics from the dock and mangrove habitats, which has implications for the risk and outcomes of ritualized interactions. These changes to morphology and behavior highlight the impacts that foundation species structure can have on the morphology, ecology, and behavior of organisms and the importance of studying these impacts in range shifting species. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Diversity of Ecosystem Engineers in the World Coasts and Oceans)
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