Species-specific mediation of temperature and community interactions by multiple foundation species


J. A. Dijkstra, Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve, Wells, ME 04090, USA. E-mail: dijkstra@wellsnerr.org


Foundation species can provide habitat that modify abiotic and biotic processes that contribute to ecosystem function. While many studies have focused on the processes and consequences of a focal foundation species, understanding the ecological equivalence of co-occurring foundation species is important to identify key species responsible for ecosystem function. Here, we investigated the relative contributions of co-occurring foundation species on abiotic (temperature) and biotic responses of invertebrate species (recruitment, persistence, growth and survival). In a series of experimental field studies, we manipulated foundation species to measure invertebrate recruitment, persistence, and predation. A laboratory experiment measured foundation species effects on herbivore growth. Results demonstrated that macroalgal (Fucus vesiculosus ecad and Ascophyllum nodosum ecad scorpioides) intermediate foundation species provide habitat, food, and alleviate abiotic stress for dominant littorinid herbivores that surpass that provided by the primary species (Spartina alterniflora). These foundation effects were species-specific with F. vesiculosus ecad important for early life-history stages (enhanced recruitment and early growth of littorinid snails) and A. nodosum ecad important later on as a refuge from predators (Carcinus meanas) and stressful temperature. Understanding of the different effects of co-occurring foundation species on population and community processes is necessary for predicting community response to natural disturbance, species invasion, and ecosystem-based management actions.