Limiting resources in sessile systems: food enhances diversity and growth of suspension feeders despite available space

J Robin Svensson, Dustin Marshall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Much of our understanding of competition comes from observations in sessile systems, such as rainforests and marine invertebrate communities. In terrestrial systems, sessile species often compete for multiple limiting resources (i.e., space, light, and nutrients), but in marine systems, space is viewed as the primary or sole limiting resource. Competition theory, on the other hand, suggests that competition for a single limiting resource is unlikely to maintain high species diversity, but manipulative tests of competition for other resources in marine benthic systems are exceedingly rare. Here, we manipulate the availability of food for a classic system, marine sessile invertebrate communities, and investigate the effects on species diversity, abundance, and composition during early succession as well as on the growth of bryozoan populations in the field. We found the number of species to be greater, available space to be lower, and the community composition to be different in assemblages subjected to increased food availability compared to controls. Similarly, laboratory-settled bryozoans deployed into the field grew more in the presence of enhanced food. Our results suggest that food can act as a limiting resource, affecting both diversity and abundance, even when bare space is still available in hard-substratum communities. Consequently, broadening the view of resource limitation beyond solely space may increase our understanding and predictability of marine sessile systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819 - 827
Number of pages9
JournalEcology
Volume96
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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