The temporal stability of aggregate community properties depends on the dynamics of the component species. Since species growth can compensate for the decline of other species, synchronous species dynamics can maintain stability (i.e. invariability) in aggregate properties such as community abundance and metabolism. In field experiments we tested the separate and interactive effects of two stressors associated with storminess–loss of a canopy-forming species and mechanical disturbances–on species synchrony and community respiration of intertidal hard-bottom communities on Helgoland Island, NE Atlantic. Treatments consisted of regular removal of the canopy-forming seaweed Fucus serratus and a mechanical disturbance applied once at the onset of the experiment in March 2006. The level of synchrony in species abundances was assessed from estimates of species percentage cover every three months until September 2007. Experiments at two sites consistently showed that canopy loss significantly reduced species synchrony. Mechanical disturbance had neither separate nor interactive effects on species synchrony. Accordingly, in situ measurements of CO2- fluxes showed that canopy loss, but not mechanical disturbances, significantly reduced net primary productivity and temporal variation in community respiration during emersion periods. Our results support the idea that compensatory dynamics may stabilise aggregate properties. They further suggest that the ecological consequences of the loss of a single structurally important species may be stronger than those derived from smaller-scale mechanical disturbances in natural ecosystems.
Helmholtz Research Programs > PACES I (2009-2013) > TOPIC 2: Coastal Change > WP 2.2: Integrating evolutionary Ecology into Coastal and Shelf Processes