Linking marine communities and ecosystems : invertebrates mediate nutrient availability in intertidal communities Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/xw42nb40q

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  • While community ecologists have traditionally focused on local-scale processes, it has become apparent that a broader perspective, which explores the community-level ramifications of material fluxes within and between ecosystems, is necessary to effectively evaluate bottom-up influences on community structure and dynamics. In this dissertation, I employed ecosystem principles to understand these processes in rocky intertidal communities. I specifically examined the roles of sessile invertebrates in mediating the transfers and transformations of carbon and nitrogen in intertidal ecosystems. First, I quantified the links between nearshore pelagic and rocky intertidal systems. By assimilating suspended particulate organic material (seston), mussels and other sessile invertebrates serve as mediators of material exchange from pelagic to benthic ecosystems. I evaluated these trophic linkages along productivity gradients on the coasts of New Zealand and Oregon, which allowed me to address the influences of seston quality and quantity on the growth and ammonium excretion rates of mussels. My results highlight the necessity of simultaneously considering both seston quantity (total organic particulates) and quality (phytoplankton availability) in evaluating benthic-pelagic coupling. Second, I assessed the utilization of invertebrate-excreted ammonium by macroalgae in high-intertidal pools. Sessile invertebrates not only serve as mediators of material transfer into intertidal ecosystems, they also chemically transform that material, converting particulate organic nitrogen, which is unusable by macroalgae, into ammonium, which algae readily assimilate. l showed that especially in high-zone pools, which are isolated from the ocean for 80% of the time, invertebrate-excreted ammonium is an important nitrogen source for macroalgae. Ammonium accumulated in tide pools and was subsequently taken up by algae. This novel positive interaction influenced community structure: macroalgal species richness increased with the rate of invertebrate-mediated ammonium loading in pools. Finally, by experimentally manipulating macroalgae and invertebrates in laboratory mesocosms, I quantified the effect of ammonium loading on algal growth. I demonstrated that algal nitrogen assimilation rates increased with the rate of ammonium accumulation in tide pools, which resulted in enhanced growth when invertebrates were present. Together, these studies suggest that by merging community and ecosystem perspectives we can gain unique and important insights into the bottom-up processes influencing intertidal systems.
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  • description.provenance : Approved for entry into archive by Patricia Black(patricia.black@oregonstate.edu) on 2012-07-02T17:02:15Z (GMT) No. of bitstreams: 1 BrackenMatthewE2004.pdf: 753060 bytes, checksum: 61fd585d658c7eb3f79b214d6b7c7347 (MD5)
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