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Foundation species patch configuration mediates salt marsh biodiversity, stability and multifunctionality

Crotty, Sinéad M., Sharp, Sean J., Bersoza, Ada C., Prince, Kimberly D., Cronk, Katheryne, Johnson, Emma E., Angelini, Christine
Ecology letters 2018 v.21 no.11 pp. 1681-1692
biodiversity, ecosystems, environmental impact, field experimentation, mussels, salt marshes, Southeastern United States
Foundation species enhance biodiversity and multifunctionality across many systems; however, whether foundation species patch configuration mediates their ecological effects is unknown. In a 6‐month field experiment, we test which attributes of foundation species patch configuration – i.e. patch size, total patch area, perimeter, area‐perimeter ratio, or connectivity – control biodiversity, stability and multifunctionality by adding a standardised density of mussel foundation species in patches of 1, 5, 10, 30, 60, 90 or 180 individuals to a southeastern US salt marsh. Over 67% of response variables increased with clustering of mussels, responses that were driven by increases in area–perimeter ratio (33%), decreases in perimeter (29%), or increases in patch size (5%), suggesting sensitivity to external stressors and/or dependence on foundation species‐derived niche availability and segregation. Thus, mussel configuration – by controlling the relative distribution of multidimensional patch interior and edge niche space – critically modulates this foundation species’ effects on ecosystem structure, stability and function.