Effects of an experimental resource pulse on the macrofaunal assemblage inhabiting seagrass macrophytodetritus

François Remy, Sylvie Gobert, Gilles Lepoint


Physical disturbances and resource pulses are major structuring drivers of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The accumulations of exported dead leaves from the Neptune grass, Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile are ephemeral and highly dynamic detrital habitats offering food sources and shelter for vagile macrofauna community. These habitats are frequently subject to wind and storms which can add “new” detrital material to previous accumulations; these can be defined as resource pulses and could potentially impact the associated macrofauna. This study assesses the impact of an experimental resource pulse on the macrofauna associated with exported P. oceanica litter accumulations. The experimental design consisted of two pulse treatments (the addition of dead leaves with and without the associated fauna), and two controls (one procedural, and one total control), where the added material was left underwater for 14 days. Invertebrates then present in the sampled detritus were all identified and counted. Our data suggest that the responses of these invertebrates to resource pulses present intermediate characteristics between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems responses. Inputting a moderate amount of dead P. oceanica leaves into experimental mesocosms had a non-negligible impact and rapidly affected the macrofauna community. Specialist detritivores species were boosted while herbivore/detritivore species dramatically decreased. Predators also showed a modest but significant density increase, demonstrating the fast propagation of the pulse response throughout the entire community and through several trophic levels. Strict hypoxia-tolerant species were also only observed in the treated mesocosms, indicating the strong influence of resource pulses on physico-chemical conditions occurring inside litter accumulations.


resource pulses; Posidonia oceanica; macrofauna; experimental ecology; macro-phytodetritus

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.26496/bjz.2017.1


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