FIORI Sandra Marcela
Dominant Bivalve in an Exposed Sandy Beach Regulates Community Structure Through Spatial Competition
CARCEDO, M. CECILIA; FIORI, SANDRA M.; SCOTTI, MARCO; ITO, MAYSA; DUTTO, M. SOFÍA; CARBONE, M. ELIZABETH
ESTUARIES AND COASTS
Fluctuations in abundance of dominant species can cause competitive release of resources with consequences on community structure and functioning. In the present study, changes in the intertidal macroinfauna community of an exposed sandy beach were evaluated during two contrasting periods characterized by low and high densities of the yellow clam Amarilladesma mactroides. The increase in clam abundance and biomass was associated with a significant decrease in abundance of the rest of the community. In particular, a decline was observed for the pea crab Austinixa patagoniensis, a commensal species that lives in the burrows of the shrimp Sergio mirim. Our study demonstrates that fluctuations in clam abundance lead to long-term changes in community structure, suggesting the presence of competitive interactions. The environmental stability over the two periods strengthens the hypothesis that the competition between species is crucial for shaping the ecological community. Stable isotope analysis allows discarding trophic competition as mechanism of exclusion. Image maps reveal complementary distribution of species, showing the relevance of the spatial competition, which is mediated by changes in abundance of a third species. Indeed, high densities of A. mactroides reduce the available area for the establishment of the S. mirim burrows, limiting the foraging behavior of its commensal, the pea crab. Such an interaction drives density-dependent exclusion of the pea crab from the intertidal zone following the establishment of the yellow clam population. This study illustrates that spatial competition triggered by the increase of a bed-forming species can have community-wide consequences in exposed sandy beaches.