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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.